Mark Williams showed glimpses of the form which has won him three Crucible titles as he reeled off seven frames in a row to beat Alan McManus 10-5 in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.
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Williams has often contemplated retirement in recent years but the 45-year-old insisted tonight that he will keep playing as long as he can, admitting that time away from snooker during lockdown has given him a new perspective on the sport and enthusiasm for competition.
The Welshman certainly had a spring in his steps tonight as he outplayed fellow veteran McManus. Scotland’s McManus led 5-3 during the first session on Friday but didn’t win another frame as his opponent rattled in breaks of 68, 50, 79 and 59 as he eased into the last 16. Williams, who won the title in 2000, 2003 and 2018, now faces Stuart Bingham.
The 2019/20 season had been a patchy one for Williams before it ground to a halt in March – he reached just one ranking event final and one other semi-final. His passion for snooker and for practice has flickered on and off in the past, but now he has no doubt about his future plans.
“I have made the decision to never retire and that has been a weight off my shoulders,” said the 22-time ranking event winner. “I am not going to change my mind and I am excited to see where I’ll be in the rankings when I’m 50. If I win another tournament then brilliant, if not I will still enjoy playing.
“Everyone has been through tough times and the lockdown gave me time to think. Snooker started off as a hobby, which turned into a job and you can earn an unbelievable amount of money if you do well at it.
“My father worked down a pit near where I grew up for 30 years. When I was 13 he took me down with him for a shift. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen. I remember crawling around in the dark on my hands and knees, it was horrible. He did it to make me realise that playing snooker was a much easier way of making a living. Thinking about that has given me a kick up the backside and forced me to stop being a big baby when other people are out there doing proper jobs.”
As for the match against McManus, Williams added: “Yesterday he outplayed me and I was happy to be 5-4 down because it could have been 7-2. Tonight I put pressure on him, then he got frustrated and I knew I had him as long as I didn’t make silly mistakes.”