Superb Williams Into Semis
Mark Williams came from 10-8 down to beat Yan Bingtao 13-11 in the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship, becoming the oldest player to reach the single table situation at the Crucible for 37 years.
At the age of 47, Williams is playing some of the best snooker of his career, having made 12 centuries in his three matches so far in Sheffield. The record of 16 tons in a single Championship, set by Stephen Hendry 20 years ago, is well within his grasp.
The Welshman is into the semi-finals for the seventh time and will now face either Judd Trump or Stuart Bingham. He becomes the oldest player to appear in the last four since Ray Reardon, who lost to Steve Davis in 1985 at the age of 52.
Just like his contemporaries Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, Williams remains a potent force at snooker’s top level. If Higgins can get the better of Jack Lisowski tonight, it will be the only time other than 1999 that all three have reached the semi-finals.
Williams, who won the British Open earlier this season, is aiming for a fourth world title, having triumphed in 2000, 2003 and 2018. That would bring him level with Higgins and Mark Selby; only Hendry, O’Sullivan and Steve Davis have won more at the Crucible.
China’s Yan, who won the Masters last year, was contesting his first Sheffield quarter-final, and though he was outplayed in the closing stages, his second round victory over Mark Selby and impressive performance against Williams suggest the 22-year-old could be a strong contender for the title in years to come.
Yan took the first two frames of the concluding session with breaks of 62 and 102 to lead 10-8. Williams pulled one back with a 135, then dominated frame 20 to leave the interval score at 10-10.
Frame 21 came down to a tactical battle on the last red and Yan, leading by 27 points, enjoyed a slice of fortune as an attempted safety shot came off two cushions and travelled the diagonal length of the table before dropping into a top corner pocket. That put Yan 11-10 ahead and he had a scoring chance in the 22nd frame but, trailing 41-10, he overcut the green to a baulk corner, handing Williams the chance to make it 11-11.
An excellent long red early in frame 23 set Williams up for a break of 66 to put him one up with two to play. And when Yan missed a long red in the 24th, Williams grasped the opportunity again with a match-winning 78.
“I’m over the moon because I thought it was going to be another close game that went against me,” said Williams. “I’ve had a lot of close games all year and lost them all. I did not feel under pressure at all, I just tried to get some momentum going.
“Last night I was dead on my feet. Two sessions in one day absolutely killed me. I was 6-2 in front, then it was 8-8, but I have never been so glad to lose a session 6-2 because it could have been worse.
“This is where the tournament becomes the best venue in the world for me. I have always said that the one table set-up is something everyone must try and play once in their career.
“I am just so happy to get to the semi-finals. I am here 30 years on after turning pro and still trying my best. Whoever I play next – they are all former World Champions, so it does not matter, it is going to be tough.
“At the minute I am playing some of the best stuff I have ever played. I am scoring as well as I have ever scored.”
Yan said: ‘’It was a very close game. I was nervous because I was so close to my first Crucible one table match. At 11-10 I had a chance to make it 12-10, but I was thinking too much and lost the cue ball. Yesterday morning I lost my concentration and went 6-2 behind, then brought it back to 8-8 in the evening session. I believe in myself, I can do anything.’’