Mark Williams is tasked with facing world number one Mark Selby next week in the Dafabet Masters and the Welshman is under no illusions of the task which awaits him.
The world number 15 has won the Masters on two occasions, as well as securing 18 ranking titles during his storied career. However, he feels that his opponent next Wednesday afternoon, who has now topped the world rankings for over 100 weeks, is undoubtedly snooker’s current standard bearer.
Williams remarked: “You have to bring your best game against Selby. If he’s playing badly he’s still one of the toughest players to beat. His B-game is probably better than most people’s A-game. I’m not playing great at the moment, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m in the event and that’s the most important thing.”
The Welshman experienced a Masters hiatus in 2014 and 2015, after dropping out of the top 16. However, a strong 2015 saw him force his way back into last year’s event, where he faced another formidable foe in five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan. Williams held a 4-2 lead, but eventually succumbed to a nerve-jangling 6-5 defeat. Now he can’t wait to get back into the Alexandra Palace arena and face Selby.
“One of my aims was to get back there. It’s one of the best venues we play in. Only the top players are there and I’m playing the best player in the world. It will be a difficult game for me but as I said I’m just happy to be back there.”
Williams first Masters victory came after one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the sport. With the score locked at 9-9 and the deciding frame tied at 56-56, his final with Stephen Hendry came down to a respotted black. After Hendry missed a tough slow-rolled pot across the nap to the middle pocket, Williams held his nerve to deposit the black to the corner for victory.
“I can’t remember a lot about the tournaments I’ve won, but that one sticks in the mind being a respotted black. I just remember the tension. It was probably the most nervous I’ve been for a game. We had a couple of digs at it each. It was electric really. Since then I’ve never played anywhere with an atmosphere like that,” said the 41-year-old. “If you win 10-2 or 10-3 nobody ever really remembers it. But because it was a respotted black, it was an unbelievable atmosphere.”
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