Mark Williams celebrated his 46th birthday in style by winning his 23rd ranking event at the inaugural WST Pro Series event in Milton Keynes.
The evergreen Welshman wrapped up the title and £31,500 overall from the tournament by overcoming Judd Trump 2-0, Sam Craigie 2-0, Kyren Wilson 2-1, Ali Carter 2-1, Jack Lisowski 2-0 and Xiao Guodong 2-1 to leave him on a perfect 18 points before the final round of fixtures boosted by breaks of 67, 101, 58, 75, 54, 72 and 70.
A 2-1 defeat to Stuart Bingham was meaningless with the 2015 world champion cancelling out Williams' 53 with fine breaks of 117 and 137 as Carter and Craigie finished second and third respectively on 15 points.
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Williams contributed his century against Craigie on his way to winning his first ranking title since the 2018 World Open. He is the oldest winner of a ranking event since his fellow countryman Doug Mountjoy, who tragically died at the age of 78 last month, lifted the Classic in 1989 at the same age.
“I’m glad I played Judd first, I didn’t want to face him at the end when I was trying to win it," said Williams. "Even if I had lost to him this morning I could have come back from that. After beating him I got on a good run, I made some good breaks and clearances.
I am loving it, going out there and playing as fast as I can. If there’s a shot I’m going for it. I have been playing good stuff for a few months. My average frame time can’t be more than ten or 12 minutes.
In a staggering exhibition of sporting longevity, the man dubbed the 'Welsh Potting Machine' moves one clear of Trump on the all-time trophy ranking list and back into fifth spot on his own 25 years after his first triumph at the 1996 Welsh Open when he defeated John Parrott 9-3.
The world number 13 did not qualify for this week's Tour Championship involving the top eight on the one-year list, but has four weeks to prepare for the World Championship which begins on 17 April until 3 May (LIVE on Eurosport).
He has also qualified for the invitational Champion of Champions event in November. Does he think a fourth world victory is on the horizon after his successes in 2000, 2003 and 2018?
“If I’m honest, I don’t think so. I can give people a game and beat them, but whether I can carry that form for the whole 17 days, I don’t know. I’ll try 100% in every game and I’ll be dangerous," he said.
To do what I did in 2018, the work I put in, I’m not prepared to do six or seven hours a day, even though there could be a world title at the end of it. I’m not prepared to sacrifice the time to win tournaments, I have accepted that. I will practise two or three hours a day, play as much golf as a I can, keep ticking over and enjoy it.
“I have nothing to prove to anyone. In 2018 I proved all the doubters wrong, and now I’m just playing for enjoyment and to see how long I can stay in the top 16 for, and when I drop out, how long I can stay on the tour.
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"No one tries any harder than me, I try my guts out when I’m out there. But if I lose it’s no problem, I go home and turn up at the next one.”
Snooker's all-time ranking event winners
- Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng) 37
- Stephen Hendry (Sco) 36
- John Higgins (Sco) 31
- Steve Davis (Eng) 28
- Mark Williams (Wal) 23
- Judd Trump (Eng) 22
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