Wonderful Williams Is Tour Champion

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Mark Williams scored one of the greatest victories of his 32-year career as he came from 5-3 down to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-5 in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Tour Championship.

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Outside of his titles in the Triple Crown events, this ranks as one of Williams’ most significant triumphs as he has beaten the three best players in the world this week in Manchester – Judd Trump was dismissed 10-4 in the quarter-finals, Mark Allen 10-5 in the semis and then all-time greatest O’Sullivan in the final. At the age of 49, Williams played the best snooker he has produced since his third Crucible crown in 2018.

O’Sullivan, winner of five titles this season, looked in control when he won four frames in a row with three centuries to lead 5-3, but it was Williams who took charge in the evening session, winning seven consecutive frames to capture the trophy and £150,000 top prize. It’s the 26th ranking title of his career and second of the season having landed the Cazoo British Open in September. Up to number six in the rankings, Williams heads to Sheffield in two weeks at the top of his game and brimming with confidence.

Over the past two decades, Williams had a poor record against his fellow ‘Class of 92′ member O’Sullivan, losing 22 of their previous 24 meetings. But, watched by wife Joanne and sons Connor, Kian and Joel, he rose to the occasion in their first ranking final since the 2000 China Open.

O’Sullivan missed out on a 42nd career ranking title and the chance to win six titles in a single season for the first time since 2000/01. He remains world number one and his record prize money tally for the season moves on to £1,215,500.

The opening frame tonight came down to the last red, and Williams converted an excellent pot to a centre pocket, playing with swerve, and cleared to halve his deficit to 5-4. Soon he was level thanks to a brilliant run of 104. He began to look the stronger player as he came from 42-6 down to take frame 11 with an excellent 54, then compiled a run of 99 to lead 7-5.

After the interval, O’Sullivan had a scoring chance in frame 13 but made just 23 before missing a red to a top corner, and again his opponent punished him with a 112 clearance, his sixth century of the tournament. A run of 78 extended Williams’ advantage to 9-5.

In frame 15, he made 35 before running out of position, but that lead proved handy as the balls drifted into awkward positions and O’Sullivan was not able to claw his way back into it. Leading 47-19, Williams doubled the last red to a centre pocket, and when he later potted the yellow, the handshake came.

“He was unbelievable to go 5-3 up,” said Williams. “The interval came at the right time for me because if he had carried on like that there was no stopping him. Tonight I put pressure on him, I won seven frames in a row and there’s not many people who do that against Ronnie. He started missing and getting frustrated towards the end. He didn’t play well but I think that was because of the breaks I was making. I had to take it to him and go for my shots. I have been going for ridiculous shots all week. I said to (coach) Lee Walker, if I lose I am going out my way, going for crazy shots. That’s how I enjoy it.

“In the first round against Tom Ford, at 9-9 he was 54 in front and missed an easy red, and I made the best clearance I have ever made as a professional. So often you see someone who should go out in the first round, go on to win the title.”

Looking ahead to the Crucible, Williams added: “I am going there with a chance, this win gives me more confidence. I wouldn’t say I am one of the favourites, but I might be a decent outside bet.”

O’Sullivan said: “Mark has been so consistent over the last five years, he hits the ball so well and very rarely plays a bad match. He’s an amazing player and I think he’s better than he has ever been. I tried everything I could to stay in the match, but he was so strong. If he dedicated his life to it he could probably be number one in the world, but he doesn’t – he likes to chill out, play golf and enjoy his life! He is a deserving winner tonight.

“The fans here have really got behind the players and supported the tournament unbelievably well. It’s a great venue, a great place, I have loved coming here and hopefully the event stays in Manchester.”