The crowd was fantastic at Alexandra Palace – as it has been all week – and there was some very good snooker on show, but overall it was a disappointing day because both matches were almost totally one-sided.
In the afternoon, Mark Williams was as good as he has been all week – very, very good indeed – but Jack Lisowski didn’t present him with any sort of challenge. Was it pressure? Was it just a bad day in office? Was it, maybe, another bout of migraine? We will never know for sure. Anyway… it all ended in a whitewash.
Williams Reaches First Masters Final For 20 Years
Mark Williams reached the final of the Cazoo Masters for the first time since 2003, and moved within a match of becoming the oldest winner of a Triple Crown event, with a 6-0 battering of Jack Lisowski.
In the third match this week to end with a whitewash, Williams outplayed his younger opponent in the safety department and made a series of excellent breaks from unpromising positions which swung the tie in his favour. Lisowski lost heart as the afternoon progressed and his opponent was able to cruise into a fourth Masters final.
Williams lifted the trophy in 1998 – the famous respotted black final – and 2003 and has not been in the final since. Last year he came agonisingly close, but lost 6-5 to Neil Robertson who had needed snookers in the deciding frame. This time, Williams has the chance to battle for the Paul Hunter Trophy and £250,000 top prize against either Judd Trump or Stuart Bingham on Sunday.
Age 47 years and 300 days, he could become the oldest winner of a Triple Crown title. The Welshman will be playing in his 12th Triple Crown final and has won seven of his previous 11. The oldest Masters finalist since Ray Reardon in 1983, world number seven Williams is looking for his first title since winning the British Open in August 2021.
Williams got the better of a scrappy opening frame, then Lisowski had a chance to level but missed the penultimate red along the top cushion when he trailed 28-52. Cwm’s Williams took advantage for 2-0 then extended his lead with a run of 74.
World number 12 Lisowski, who had never won a match in this event before this week, looked set to pull one back until he lost position in frame four when he led 43-36. He later played a weak safety on the penultimate red and Williams punished him for 4-0, before making a 68 in the next to move to the brink of victory. Frame six came down to the colours and Lisowski had a chance to clear but lost position from green to brown. Williams got the better of a safety exchange and potted brown, blue and pink for victory.
“I made a lot of good breaks in scrappy frames which were as good as the centuries I made against Ronnie the other day,” said Williams, who was watched today by wife Joanne and sons Kian, Connor and Joel. “Jack struggled with the pressure, and once you are 4-0 or 5-0 down you almost give up and can’t wait to get out. I like Jack, and at the UK Championship I told him to keep knocking on the door. Eventually it will open for him, he shouldn’t worry about today’s result.
“Last year I had one foot in the final then lost, and people were saying it might be my last chance, but 12 months later I’m in the final. I’m surprised I have done that at the grand old age of 47. I don’t think I’m playing any better than last season, but last year I lost a lot of deciding frames, that’s the only difference. It would be great to win, 20 years after being in the final. I’ll give it my best shot and try to remember it, although I can’t remember where I put my car keys yesterday, let alone the final 20 years ago. I am determined to enjoy it no matter what the result is. The crowd are what makes this tournament, they make so much noise, the atmosphere is like nothing else.”
Lisowski said: “It was one of those days, I couldn’t get anything going. Mark was fantastic and made it very difficult for me. Everything I tried went wrong, you get days like that. It was frustrating not to be able to overcome what was in front of me. Overall it has been a fantastic week and a step in the right direction. It wasn’t nerves or concentration that beat me today, I felt calm. I’m playing Rob Milkins in Cheltenham on Monday night at the World Grand Prix so there’s no time to be disappointed – onwards and upwards.”
I know that snooker needs young players to go forward, but I hope that Willo will lift that trophy tonight, he’s definitely capable of winning this. It would be a great story, and something I feel he deserves. He’s a great, great player, a great ambassador for the game and a true character.
The evening match was even more disappointing as Stuart Bingham didn’t play anywhere near his best and Judd Trump picked up the pieces without playing at his best either.
Trump: I’m Underdog In Final
Judd Trump remained on course to double his tally of Cazoo Masters titles as he battled to a 6-1 success against Stuart Bingham in the semi-finals, but insists he’ll be second favourite against Mark Williams.
Trump has been far from his best at Alexandra Palace this week but has shown his fighting spirit, coming from 5-3 down to beat Ryan Day, 5-4 down to knock out Barry Hawkins and then comfortably seeing off an out-of-sorts Bingham. The 33-year-old meets Williams in the final on Sunday with first to ten frames to collect the Paul Hunter Trophy and £250,000.
World number four Trump will be playing in his second Masters final, having beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2019. It will be his eighth Triple Crown final and he has won three of the previous seven, with one World Championship and one UK Championship crown under his belt. The left-hander is seeking his first silverware since the Turkish Masters in March 2022.
“I’d say I was the underdog against Barry Hawkins, the same tonight and the same in the final,” said Trump. “I need to step up my game, the way I’m playing won’t work against Mark, he won’t play that badly. It’s for him to lose, the way he has played. I am just happy to be in the final because other players have been better than me the week but I have scraped through. I feel I can raise it on the biggest stage, I know it’s in there. I have good memories of beating Ronnie here in 2019, that was one of my best ever games.”
Bingham has scored more centuries (five) than any other player this week, but made too many errors tonight and managed just one break over 50. He trailed by 32 points in the opening frame when he missed the last red to a baulk corner, handing Trump the chance to go 1-0 ahead. The Bristol cueman doubled his lead with a run of 87 and he led 38-0 in frame three when he failed to clip a red into a centre pocket, allowing Bingham to clear with 93 for 2-1.
Frame four came down to a safety battle on the green, resolved when Bingham missed an attempted long pot and sent the cue ball in-off, setting Trump up to double his lead. The fifth lasted 45 minutes and ended on the last three balls, Trump converting an excellent mid-range pot on the blue and adding pink and black for 4-1.
Trump led 66-34 in frame six when he knocked in a cracking pot on the penultimate red, and added the green which proved enough to go four up with five to play. A run of 58 put him in charge of the seventh, and he later got the better of a safety exchange on the yellow and potted the balls he needed.
“The scoreline was a bit flattering but I felt I was the stronger player at the start,” Trump added. “I’m just missing the odd ball here and there, my concentration is not quite there. Towards the end it was a bit nervy but I still felt comfortable, Stuart wasn’t playing well enough to get back into it. I was expecting him to play amazing but he didn’t turn up.
“A lot of people expect me to do better in the Triple Crown events so it would be nice to be a double champion in this one. You have got to win the big ones, no one remembers the loser. It’s important when you get this far to find another gear in the final and take the trophy home. Some people think the Triple Crowns define your career. That doesn’t define it for me. But to be up there with the greats you need to be close to them in your record in these events. I have some catching up to do, but I have reached the World final and the Masters final in the space of the year without playing my best so that’s a tremendous effort.”
Bingham said: “Even at 5-1 down I fancied the job, but I needed a spark. A lot of frames went down to the colours or last red and I kept sticking him up. He was missing a few and getting away with it. But I had my chances so I can’t moan. I felt a bit nervous and tight in the hands at the start, I didn’t settle.”
Stuart made a lot of mistake at crucial moments and that was what “defined” the match.
The fifth frame was very dramatic, and probably the most important of the match. It is a shame that there is no footage available either on WST or Eurosport YouTube channels. It ended in a very long and extremely tense battle over the colours, a battle that Stuart Bingham had several opportunities to win. He didn’t take his chances. Instead, he eventually made a bad mistake, giving Judd Trump an opportunity that he gratefully took. That made the score 4-1 in favour of Judd. Had it gone the other way, Stuart would have been only one frame behind and we might have seen an entirely different match. I must confess that I stopped watching after that frame. It was already well past midnight where I live and I knew that there was only going to be one winner from there.
World Grand Prix: Williams Tie Swapped To Tuesday
The World Grand Prix gets underway in Cheltenham on Monday and the opening-night tie between Mark Williams and Jamie Jones has now been moved to Tuesday afternoon.
Williams has reached the final of the Cazoo Masters in London, so his match in Cheltenham has been moved to Tuesday to give him time to travel and prepare. The tie between Neil Robertson and Xiao Guodong has been swapped into the Monday evening session. For the updated match schedule, click here.