Mark Williams ended a three-year drought without a victory at a ranking event by winning the British Open with a brilliant performance to defeat Gary Wilson. The last major title that Williams claimed was the World Championship in 2018 when he rolled back the years to defeat John Higgins in the final at the Crucible. The Welshman then endured a period of struggle over the next three years amid a talented field on the World Snooker Tour in ranking events.
However, Williams rose to the occasion in Leicester to defeat Wilson by a 6-4 margin, which included two century breaks. The 46-year-old will now attempt to return to the peak of his powers in line for the second half of the campaign. Williams is backed at 40/1 in the odds for betting on snooker at Betfair, which highlights the standard of competition expected in Sheffield with Judd Trump and reigning champion Mark Selby, the leading contenders for the crown.
Williams does have experience on his side and his ability to remain composed will be key under the bright lights. The problem for the left-hander has his been form rather than his ability to handle the occasion. After his triumph in 2018, he could not find his rhythm around the table, notably in ranking events. Williams progressed only as far as the quarter-finals of the German Open and the Players Championship, while the rest of his performances involved exits in the early rounds.
The defence of his World Championship crown was meek, to say the least. He overcame Barry Gould in the first round but was knocked out with relative ease by 16th seed David Gilbert by a 13-9 margin. It was a surprising result, although the Englishman did enjoy his best run at the World Championship to reach the semi-final stage. Williams’ confidence appeared to drop after his premature exit from the tournament. He failed to fire in the 2019/20 season as he did not reach even the last-eight stage of several ranking events before finally breaking through at the Gibraltar Open by advancing to the semi-finals of the tournament towards the end of the campaign.
Williams enjoyed a good run in the World Championship to end the term by defeating Stuart Bingham and Alan McManus before being knocked out in a close contest by Ronnie O’Sullivan. It was a start of a slight revival in his fortunes, beginning with the 2020/21 season reaching the semi-finals of the Snooker Shoot-Out and the Welsh Open before reaching the final of the Championship League. It handed the Welshman the momentum once more to make a surge to the quarter-finals of the World Championship, defeating Lyu Haotian and Mark Allen in the process. Only Mark Selby stopped his charge in a humbling 13-3 defeat in the last eight.
However, Williams has not been deterred by his defeat at the hands of Selby. A great player had a fine day against the Welshman on his way to the crown, and Williams appeared to accept that his own performance had little impact on the result. Therefore, he has been able to take the momentum forward after a solid run in the World Championship, and his triumph at the British Open is a step in the right direction. The 46-year-old now has the opportunity to string together a strong run of form to take into the major competitions in the second half of the campaign.