Mark Williams won his third title at the World Snooker Championship and completed one of the best comeback stories in the sport as he defeated John Higgins 18-16.
It was a final that came with no end of storylines, but Williams’s was the most poignant. Last year the Welshman failed to qualify for this tournament and, after years in obscurity, was on the verge of retiring from the sport. Persuaded otherwise by his wife, Joanne, in 2018 Williams has rediscovered his form and held off an endlessly tenacious Higgins to claim victory.
Williams was never behind in the match and came into the second day with a three-frame lead at 10-7. As play got under way on Monday, the Welshman was the bookies’ favourite for the first time, and he was starting to play like it. He fluked the first red of the 18th frame and it proved auspicious. Two strong breaks helped him to a score of 98-5.
Frame 19 went in Williams’s favour with two cunningly planted reds. In frame 20, he made his way calmly up and down the table on his way to 126 without reply. Frame 21 went the way of the Welshman too, and suddenly he had won seven in succession. Higgins was struggling, with no break higher than 15. He stormed from the theatre at the interval.
Throughout the first day Higgins had used the breaks to focus and come back in better nick and it was the case again. He won the next frame, then the one after that, before potting 10 consecutive blacks in the 24th frame to create the first maximum chance of the final. Suddenly a man who had once looked on the point of tears was distinctly bushy-tailed.
The final frame of the mini-session went to Williams and he began the evening with a five-frame lead. It did not last long. Once again Higgins returned to the table pumped up. He swept the first five frames of the evening session with the best snooker of the match. The first frame brought a break of 131, the highest of the final and Higgins’s fourth ton of the match. The next frame was arguably even better from Higgins with a break of 83 featuring several shots of superb control and placement. Williams, meanwhile, seemed to blowing his breaks at the crucial moment.
With the scores tied at 15-15, Higgins looked the likely winner once more. But once more Williams dug in. He scrapped to claim the 31st frame. On the next he played his best snooker, with at least three reds potted from unlikely angles drawing the breath of the audience as he reached a century break.
On the cusp of victory Williams broke down again, but at 17-16 he created one more chance. On a break of 70 he left Higgins needing snookers that the Scot just could not find.