Mark Williams won his third world title
As he contemplated retirement last summer, Mark Williams admits he never imagined sitting stark naked in a post-match press conference having just become world champion for the third time but snooker is a funny sport.
Twelve months ago, Williams had grown so frustrated with his game that he intended to pack it in, until wife Jo convinced him otherwise, and now he’s capped a renaissance season by beating John Higgins 18-16 in a remarkable Betfred World Snooker Championship final.
And true to a promise he made earlier in the tournament, the 43-year-old conducted his post-match press conference completely naked, save for a strategically placed Betfred towel to cover his modesty.
Higgins was on the brink of losing with a session to spare at 14-7 behind but rallied in spectacular style at the Crucible Theatre – taking eight of the next nine frames to level the match at 15-15.
However, Williams found something deep within himself to grind out a victory that makes him the oldest world champion since his fellow Welshman Ray Reardon in 1978.
With Higgins being 42, the duo had the highest combined age of any two world finalists in Crucible Theatre history and the fact they both turned professional together back in 1992 only added to the intrigue – culminating in one of the most exciting, dramatic finals in recent memory.
The Cwm cueman had lifted the world title back in 2000 and 2003 but after going through so many lows since, he insists this one was the sweetest of all.
“I’m over the moon – what a match to be involved in,” said Williams. “It’s a big occasion for me. I thought these sort of days had passed for me.
“It’s an unbelievable story really. Twelve months ago I was thinking about chucking it and here I am as the 2018 world champion, bollock naked!
“I don’t know where it has come from – it has been an unbelievable 12 months. If I never win another tournament, I don’t care now. I just did something I thought I would never ever do.
“I enjoyed that one more than the other ones I’ve been in. It’s an unbelievable feeling and one I never thought I would get again.
“What an occasion. To play John in the Crucible in the final is an unbelievable occasion and I’m so glad I won.
“I can’t believe I beat him really because he’s one of the best there has ever been.”
From 7-7, Higgins lost seven frames in a row to fall 14-7 behind and although he closed the gap a little, he still trailed 15-10 heading into evening.
However, the Scot incredibly reeled off five on the spin – thanks to breaks of 131, 67, 82, 52 and 62 – to level at 15-15.
Having lost eight of the previous nine frames, the world No.7 could have crumbled but won the next two frames to go 17-15 ahead and although he missed a pink to seal the title in the next, as Higgins pinched the frame with a run of 65, a knock of 69 sealed an 18-16 win and a third world title – 15 years after his last.
And if he can somehow retain his title, the veteran has made an even bolder claim.
“I’m just looking forward to coming back next year already,” added Williams. “I’m going to keep my mouth shut next year, not say anything stupid and end up like this!
“Actually, if I won it again next year, I’d do it again. I come and cartwheel naked in here!”
Watch the snooker World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.