Stevens was runner-up at the Crucible in 2000 and 2005
Matthew Stevens scored a superb 10-2 win over Mark Williams at the Betfred World Championship to set up a last 16 clash against Ronnie O’Sullivan.
In their first Crucible meeting since the 2000 final, which Williams won 18-16, Stevens gained a small measure of revenge with an emphatic win. Victory over O’Sullivan in the next round would put the Carmarthen cueman into the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time since July.
Stevens was runner-up twice at the Crucible and won the UK Championship and the Masters during his hey-day. He has now slipped to 35th in the world, but built up a head of steam by winning three qualifying matches last week, and comfortably outplayed Williams, who joined Stephen Maguire and Ricky Walden as seeds to fall at the first hurdle.
Stevens led 7-2 after yesterday’s opening session, and added the three frames he needed today with top breaks of 115 and 73.
“I thought I played pretty solid, it wasn’t fireworks but it was a lot better than I have been playing,” said Stevens. “There were a few crucial frames I pinched to get a big lead last night, then I managed to finish it off well today.
I’ve blown a few big leads here at the Crucible but today I felt really comfortable, which is a good sign.
“It’s never nice playing Mark, we’ve known each other for 28 years, but you’ve got to go out there and do a job.
“I’m obviously a massive underdog against Ronnie which I don’t mind. I was underdog against Mark too, I wasn’t expected to win that match.
“I’m just going to enjoy the game, if I lose I lose but I will give it my best shot. I’m not afraid of Ronnie, I will just go out there and play my own game.”
Williams said: “I’m a bit disappointed, overall I played poorly. I lost about five or six frames on the blue, pink and black so the scoreline could have been a lot closer. I kept missing balls I thought I had potted, and leaving them over the pocket. It was 7-2 after the first session but it could have been 5-4 either way.
“I put a lot of effort in to get here. I did enjoy it even though I lost because you never know how many times you’re going to get to play here.”
On the other table, 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy was also in fine form against Finland’s Robin Hull, taking a 7-2 lead (Thomas McGovern writes).
Murphy raced out of the blocks with a fine break of 97 in the first, before clinching the next two to take an early 3-0 lead. Hull managed to stop the Magician in his tracks in the fourth with a clearance of 52 to go into the interval just two behind.
Recently crowned Masters champion Murphy rattled in the game’s first century to see him claim the first of four frames in a row.
He might also have won the last of the session after a thumping long pot on the last pink to give himself a chance of a respot, but he failed to pot the black along the top cushion. Hull potted it to give himself a glimmer of hope ahead of the concluding session at 7pm tomorrow.