Mark Williams is through to the 31st ranking final of his career following a 6-2 defeat of world number 82 Elliot Slessor at the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
The two-time World Champion hasn’t won a ranking event on UK soil since the LG Cup in 2003 and will be hoping to rectify that in tomorrow’s final. His opponent will be a Chinese teenager, with Yan Bingtao and Lyu Haotian clashing in this evening’s second semi-final.
Slessor will be disappointed to drop out in the last four, but he can reflect positively on a week which has seen him earn his career best payday of £20,000 and reach hisfirst ever ranking semi-final.
This afternoon it was Williams who made the strongest start. He fired in a fine run of 127 to move 2-0 in front. Slessor responded with a break of 70 to stay in touch, but a contribution of 71 ensured Williams restored his two frame lead, to go 3-1 ahead at the interval.
When they returned Slessor pulled one back to make it 3-2, but Williams then claimed three frames on the bounce to secure his spot in the final. The normally relaxed Welshman showed a rare sign of emotion out in the arena as he clenched his fist after depositing the final ball.
“He missed a few and it could have been a lot closer. I nicked one to go 5-2 and it was pretty much over then,” said the 18-time ranking event winner. “I nearly gave up playing this year. It was only my wife that talked me around. I’m glad she talked me out of it.
“I’m enjoying it. I haven’t been in a final for a while so I am going to enjoy tomorrow. I’m still trying, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan are still winning tournaments. They are still winning tournaments and I am doing alright this season so you never know.”
Slessor was disconsolate and found it hard to see the positives in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing loss.
He said: “I felt comfortable out there, it wasn’t the pressure I just wasn’t able to play, I was really poor in the quarter-final as well – I’ve got no idea.
“I’m trying to think how I could possibly have played that badly in front of my own eyes.”