Phil Haigh ✍️
Mark Williams does not go along with the narrative that this year’s World Snooker Championship is the most open ever, believing it will be one of the usual suspects who lifts the title at the Crucible.
With doubts hanging over some of the big hitters in the draw, along with some serious shocks in tournaments this season and a very high quality of qualifiers, this year’s World Championship feels an open affair.
However, the three-time champ is not so sure, not expecting an outsider to pick up the trophy and feeling like he has heard it all before.
On whether this is the most open draw ever, Williams told Metro.co.uk: ‘Not at all. I think it’s still going to be one of the handful of five or six names anyone could pick off the top of their head.
‘One of them will win it anyway, probably. They say it’s the most open tournament every year. “Anyone can win this one!” Selby wins it. “This is the most open tournament we’ve ever seen!” Judd Trump wins it or Ronnie wins it. “You can’t pick a winner this time!” Selby wins again. It’s the same every year.’
Asked whether he is in that handful of potential winners, Williams typically downplayed his chances, saying: ‘No I’m not. Not really. I never really put myself in that.’
Williams isn’t really ruling out his chances though, despite being rated as something of an outside in the betting before the tournament.
The three-time champion who won as recently as 2018 was available at around 33/1 in places which seems odd given his Crucible pedigree and good form this season.
‘I’m always like that,’ he said. ‘I think when I won it the third time I was about 80/1. I don’t know who does the betting, it’s nothing to concern me. I just crack on and do the best I can.
‘I don’t know who’s in front of me, but if I had a look at the rankings I’d probably have more chance of winning it than some people in front of me.’
One of Williams’ great strengths is his ability to brush off defeats and even seemingly hurtful losses don’t bother him.
However, his 10-9 loss to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship quarter-finals last month was a rare stinging defeat, with the Welshman admitting that it got to him, for a couple of days at least.
‘I don’t really know because I lost to Neil Robertson [at the Masters] in a lot worse circumstances than that and it didn’t bother me a bit,’ he said.
‘As soon as I lost that was it, I didn’t take it away at all, I wasn’t bothered at all but this one I don’t know, I was really cheesed off for a couple of days.
‘Probably because, I never say ‘should’ have won, but I could have won. I played really good, he played excellent and I could or should have beat him. Couple of half chances in the last and blew it. ‘
On whether it was annoying because it was the Rocket in the other chair, he said: ‘Possibly, I don’t think so, but it could have been in the back of my mind. People keep going on about me not beating him for 20 years, so 21 isn’t going to make a difference.’
Williams was happy to comment on Hossein Vafaei’s recent interview, when the Iranian claimed O’Sullivan was not good for snooker and should retire.
The veteran thought Vafaei had a point when it came to O’Sullivan talking the game down, but disagreed with the Rocket being bad for snooker or that he should hang up his cue.
‘That’s the parts I agree with,’ Williams said of O’Sullivan speaking badly of snooker. ‘But on the other hand if it wasn’t for him the game wouldn’t be where it is today.
‘He is the draw. Even now whether you like him or not, he’s the one everyone wants to see. Forget Robertson, Trump, Selby, if he’s playing he’ll outshine them all with ticket sales and everything. That’s just a fact. It is what it is. When he retires it’s the game’s loss and everyone’s loss.’
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