Mark Williams won his 20th ranking title yesterday evening with a 9-1 demolition of Graeme Dott in front of a packed Tempodrom.
Congratulations Mark Williams!
It’s the 20th ranking title of Williams’ career and he becomes the fifth player to reach that landmark after Stephen Hendry (36), Ronnie O’Sullivan (31), John Higgins (29) and Steve Davis (28).
And it’s the Welshman’s second ranking crown of the season having lifted the Northern Ireland Open trophy in November. Not since 2002/03, when he won the World and UK titles, has Williams collected two pieces of ranking silverware in the same campaign. Add the fact that he won the invitational Six Red World Championship in September, and this is certainly his best season in 15 years. The £80,000 top prize lifts 42-year-old Williams three places to seventh in the world.
In front of a crowd of over 2,000 at the Tempodrom, Williams made a century and six more breaks over 50 in a dominant display; the most one-sided ranking final since Mark Selby beat Ding Junhui 10-1 at the 2016 International Championship. Over the weekend Williams won 15 frames and conceded just two, having beaten Judd Trump 6-1 in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Williams insists that he almost quit professional snooker last summer, unable to see the end to a barren streak without a ranking title which stretched back to 2011. More in hope than expectation, he turned to coach Stephen Feeney and his Sight Right method, which helps players to align themselves correctly. Working with Feeney and fellow pro Lee Walker, Williams has been a man reborn in recent months and is playing some of the best snooker of his career.
Scotland’s 40-year-old Dott was playing in his first ranking final since the 2010 World Championship but failed to reproduce the form which saw him knock out the likes of Barry Hawkins and Shaun Murphy in Berlin. He missed out on his third career ranking title though the £35,000 runner-up prize sees the Larkhall cueman jump three places to 25th in the world.
A break of 79 gave Williams the opening frame and he dominated the second to lead 2-0. He made a 56 in the next but then Dott responded with an excellent 64 clearance to gain a foothold. And the Scot had chances to make it 2-2 but Williams eventually cleared from blue to black in frame four to lead 3-1.
That proved crucial as Williams built momentum with runs of 79 and 66 to lead 5-1. He won frame seven on the colours then compiled a break of 110 to go 7-1 up at the end of the first session. And the evening session lasted just 31 minutes as Williams made further runs of 66 and 50 in winning the two frames he needed to seal the rout.
“I’m over the moon,” said Williams. “I hadn’t won a tournament for donkeys’ years, now I’ve won three this season. My long potting was very good today and I played well all the way through. I felt zoned in from the start. I kept on going for my shots and felt at ease.
“I was genuinely thinking about giving it up after last season. I told my wife that I’d had enough and I couldn’t keep playing the same way. She was the one who talked me out of it, and what a turnaround it has been.”
Asked if he feels he could be a contender at the Crucible in the Spring, where he triumphed in 2000 and 2003, Williams added: “It will be the best I have felt going into the World Championship for many years, I will have loads of confidence. Whether I can win it again remains to be seen – it is so long and so hard to win. But I’m really looking forward to it now.”
Dott said: “It sounds funny when you’ve lost 9-1 but I actually didn’t think I played that badly. It’s the first time I have lost that heavily and felt ok. I have had some thumpings before at the Crucible, losing 13-3 and being in bits because I couldn’t pot a ball, but today I felt comfortable. My safety was poor, Mark wasn’t really missing anything, and nothing went right for me.
“I should have made it 2-2 early on but maybe the way he was playing, it wouldn’t have made any difference. I played Mark when he was at the peak of his game and he was as good as that today.”
Williams and Dott will be in ranking event action again at the Coral Shoot Out in Watford which starts on Thursday, for ticket details click here.
After the match the ES pundits, Neal, Jimmy and Ronnie reflected that Mark was probably playing as well, if not better, than he was around 2000-2003 when is was the dominant force in the game and that he will definitely be a major contender at the Crucible come April. Bring it on!
Pundits at work…