Wonderful Williams Claims Gold In Cheltenham

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Mark Williams became the second oldest winner of a ranking title by defeating Mark Selby 10-7 to claim victory at the Cazoo British Open in Cheltenham.

At 48 years and 194 days, Williams moves ahead of Joe Perry into second place in the list of oldest ranking event winners. Perry was 47 when he won the Welsh Open in 2022. The oldest player to win a ranking event remains Ray Reardon, who was 50 when he won the Professional Players Tournament in 1982.

It’s the third time Williams has won the British Open. His last came in 2021, when he beat Gary Wilson in the title match and his first came in 1997 after victory against Stephen Hendry in the final.

Williams now has 25 ranking event wins to his name. Only Steve Davis (28), John Higgins (31), Stephen Hendry (36) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (39) have won more.

Today’s encounter was the fifth time England’s Selby and Welshman Williams have met in a final. Williams has won three of those encounters, but trails 13-12 in the overall head-to-head record.

The afternoon session saw Williams end with a 5-3 advantage, but not before Selby reeled him back from 5-1 down to remain in contention heading into this evening.

When play commenced, four-time Crucible king Selby cranked up the heat with a break of 112 in the opening frame to reduce his arrears to a single frame. The next two frames were then traded, before Williams won a tight 12th to head into the mid-session 7-5 in front.

Williams took the first after the interval to move 8-5 ahead, but at that point Selby summoned his typical battling qualities and mounted a comeback charge. A 54-minute 14th frame was in the balance when Williams left the arena for a toilet break, when he returned he played a loose safety and it allowed Selby to take charge and cut the gap to 8-6.

A break of 68 from Selby made it 8-7 and he was in pole position to move level when he led the 16th frame 56-0. However, having not potted a ball for 39 minutes, Williams crashed in a long red and cleared with 69 to move one from victory.

Selby left Williams needing a snooker in the next, but he got it and made 37 to win on the black. He clenched his fist in celebration after getting over the line for a momentous victory.

“Just to compete with him, over two sessions and first to ten in a big tournament, is unbelievable for me. At 48 (years old), that has to be up there with my best wins ever,” said three-time World Champion Williams.

“I don’t think many people gave me much of a chance beating him first to ten over two sessions to be honest. I think all day I competed with him and probably outplayed him in the safety department to be honest with you. That is really good for me because he is the best in the world at it.

“I was more than happy with 24 ranking titles. If you want me to be truthful, I didn’t think I was going to get off it. I’m on 25 and that is an unbelievable feeling. Maybe I’m a bit too harsh on myself. Maybe I do deserve to pat myself on the back a bit. Off the back of this maybe I’m a bit better than I give myself credit for as a snooker player.

“I’m going to keep going until I can’t play anymore. How long I can keep going at this level, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to see where I am at 50. I’m 49 in a few months time, so I’m not far away and I’ve just won a tournament. Let’s just enjoy the ride while I’m still going.”

Selby said: “He played amazing today. I can’t remember him missing too many long balls. Some of the balls he potted, he was doing that all the time when he was at his peak. He was rolling back the years today. It wasn’t to be. I felt I was fighting against it all day.”