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Mark Williams clinches German Masters title

Snooker German Masters

Welshman Mark Williams held off Mark Selby’s comeback in Berlin to claim his 18th ranking title with a 9-7 victory.

Williams led the Leicester man 7-4 in the evening session but Selby rallied strongly to level at 7-7. A tense 15th frame swung back and forth in front of the sell-out crowd in the Tempodrom, but crucially Williams pinched it and a break of 82 saw the world number two claim the title and the €50,000 winner’s cheque.

It was a sweet moment for the Welshman and few could argue he deserved it after two centuries in the afternoon session of the final took his tournament tally to four as he thrilled the audiences with his fantastic long potting. The win also eliminated any doubts of his ability to get over the line having succumbed to John Higgins’ comeback after leading him 9-5 at the UK Championship at Telford in December.

“I’m really happy with that win, it was a nerve-wracking experience, both in front of that unbelievable crowd and also after the UK Championships,” said Williams. “I was in my seat when Mark was about to level the match thinking ‘Am I going to let another one slip?’ but then I realised that there was little I could do about it and that relaxed me. In truth, he could have moved 8-7 up himself but the break in the last frame was brilliant as I realised in Telford that you are not safe with just 60-odd breaks against the like of John and Mark.”

Selby moved to number four in the world through reaching his fourth ranking event final and was quick to praise his Welsh opponent afterwards.

“I played well in the first session but I wasn’t quite with it in the evening – but all credit goes to Mark, he’s been the best player here this week and is a deserved winner,” said Selby.

With the afternoon session littered with fantastic potting and big breaks, the second session was a tactical battle of the highest order. There were five re-racks in the match in total, with Williams saying it was a result of the top class snooker they were both playing.

“The reason for the re-racks was the quality of the safety play, and that neither of us wanted to offer the other a chance as you know you will get punished,” said Williams. Selby also commented on the re-racks, saying: “With the rules at the shoot-out [a ball must strike the cushion or pot a ball on every shot] there was virtually no chance of a re-rack, so maybe that’s something that will be considered. But the tactical part of the game is just as important and I think the great crowds here this week loved that as much as the centuries.”

The German Masters title is the eighth ranking event that the 35 year-old has won overseas, and the Welshman put this down his ability to take conditions in his stride.

“I guess it shows I like clocking up the air miles!” said Williams. “I think I get into a good mindset ahead of the overseas events, I know I’ll have a long flight and lots of travelling and that doesn’t affect me – and crucially I adapt to whatever conditions I find quickly.”

Selby admitted he was disappointed not to win the event having fought so hard in Saturday’s quarters and semis against Ding Junhui and Graeme Dott, but felt that he was beginning to come back into form.

“I was struggling before the Masters and wasn’t happy with my game, but then I saw Derek Hill and he helped me out and now I think I’m getting back on track,” said Selby.

The pair came out for the second session to a rousing reception but the crowd were soon silenced as the fluency of the first session was replaced by tension.

The ninth frame was re-racked twice before Williams put 49 on the board. Selby responded with a break of 45 but missed a tough last red on the bottom cushion and Williams cashed in to open up a three-frame lead at 6-3.

Both players had chances to take the tenth frame before a safety battle ensued that Williams appeared to win only to fail to pot the trickily placed blue and Selby nipped in to pinch it

Selby went in-off at the start of the 11th frame allowing Williams to move ahead and then post a 97 clearance to move ahead 7-4. The Leicester man looked likely to reduce arrears going into the interval, but two misjudgements of pace left him short of resting on one of the two reds on the table left the frame in the balance. Selby potted one red with a brown and left Williams snookered on the last red and the Welshman struck the pink with his attempted escape and conceded the frame.

When they came back out, Selby moved closer to the left hander again with a break of 60 taking the 13th frame, and he had a great opportunity to level in the 14th frame but his attempt to develop an awkward red off the black went awry and another safety exchange followed. Williams sank the last red to leave the colours, but fluffed his lines on the yellow and Selby coolly sunk the required colours to level at 7-7.

Williams stopped Selby’s charge in the next frame to move to within one of the title. Williams recorded a break of 44 Selby put him in behind the green after sinking a red, and Williams’ hit-and-hope escape blasted into the pink, scattering the remaining reds but remarkably leaving none of them on. Referee Jan Verhaas had the unenviable task of replacing the balls as Selby put him back in. Selby edged towards taking the frame but stuttered, allowing Williams another chance. The Welshman added just eight before the frame returned to safety as the tension mounted, and the snooker he laid on the green saw Selby hit the pink and Williams was one frame from victory, a victory he duly claimed with a break of 82 in the 16th frame.

In the afternoon session, Selby drew first blood in the opening frame thanks to a break of 82 but Williams responded with a break of 56 to level and fired the first century of a match, with a break of 108 taking him 2-1 ahead.

Selby hit back though with a break of 46 and put Williams in trouble and the Welshman was unfortunate to go in-off attempt to escape from the Leicester man’s snooker. Selby capitalised with a break of 49 for two-apiece at the mid-session interval.

Williams took the fifth frame, opening with a visit of 43 as his long potting began to click into gear, but Selby responded in style with a measured break of 62 to level once more.

The first session of the final swung Williams’ way in the seventh frame, when he followed a break of 38 from Selby with a break of 53 leaving Selby needing snookers. Selby claimed one after tucking Williams up behind the blue on off the green, but he was unable to put Williams in further trouble and the Welshman cleared the colours to edge ahead.

The pivotal eighth frame started ominously for Selby as Williams got in and around the black and recorded his second century of the match with a 105 break, his fourth of the tournament.

Pic: Behrendt/contrastphoto