Mark Williams completed an impressive 10-5 defeat of Jimmy Robertson to reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.
Williams, Crucible king in 2000 and 2003, missed out on reaching the final stages last year after a 10-7 defeat to Stuart Carrington in qualifying.
This season the Welshman has transformed his fortunes, claiming a first ranking title since 2011 at the Northern Ireland Open and adding further silverware at the German Masters. In total he has now won 20 ranking events. Williams’ resurgence has seen him fly up the world rankings and he is now in 7th position.
World number 34 Robertson has appeared at the Crucible four times, but is yet to win his first match at the Theatre of Dreams. However, he can take solace from a season which has seen him reach a ranking quarter-final for the first time at the German Masters.
Williams dominated the opening session of this encounter, establishing a 7-2 advantage. It looked unlikely that Robertson would be able to overturn the extensive deficit. However, he started strongly this morning by taking the opening two frames.
Williams then snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback with a typically emphatic response, firing in the highest break of the tournament so far – a sublime run of 140. He backed that up with a break of 100 in the following frame to move one from victory and eventually emerged a 10-5 victor. He’ll now face either Neil Robertson or Robert Milkins in the second round.
“The damage was done in the first session really. It’s first to ten but the first frame was massive, and I beat him on the black and that put him under pressure. He should have won the first two frames really,” said the 43-year-old. “I’m coming into this tournament playing the best I’ve played for many years. I’ve got as good as chance as anyone left in the tournament.
“Neil Robertson is one of the best players in the world, but I don’t play the player, I never have. I just play the balls. Whoever it is I’m looking forward to it. I beat Robert Milkins 10-1 here in 2005, but you don’t beat people like that here anymore. I’d love to have another 147 against him just to see his face.”
Robertson said: “Mark played really well. Over the two sessions he was the better player. I missed a couple of good chances, but it’s tough because he doesn’t give you many, you’re glued to the baulk rail and in trouble all the time. He never really let me get going. It’s gutting to come here and lose again, but I’ll try hard to get back again next season.
“I love playing at the Crucible now. The first time I was here I was dreading it and was really nervous. This time I felt pretty good out there. It didn’t look like that maybe but that’s because he made it really tough for me. I enjoy playing here now, so I can’t wait to get back here.”
Meanwhile, four-time Crucible king John Higgins took a 6-3 lead over Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
Scotland’s Higgins, who has won two ranking titles this season, took a 4-1 lead with top breaks of 62 and 51, then Crucible debutant Un-Nooh pulled two frames back.
In the eighth, Higgins potted 13 reds with blacks and looked on course for his first Crucible 147 until he missed a difficult penultimate red to a top corner on 104. He went on to win the last frame of the session to lead by three. They resume tonight at 7pm.