Monday, 7 February 2011

Williams bounces to Berlin win

Mark Williams is back - and so is snooker.

The Welshman ended a terrific week of action on the continent by winning the German Masters final 9-7 against Mark Selby.

Back in buisness, it marks his first major ranking event title since he was crowned world champion in 2003.

It's been a long road back for Williams after he famously slipped so low down the rankings. In truth, he's been back to something near his top form before this tournament, but getting back on the honours board will be the icing on the cake.

After the disappointment of letting a 9-5 lead slip in the UK final against John Higgins in December, he didn't take long to bury those demons, but it wasn't without a scare.

He had built up a 7-4 lead in this match against Selby. But the Jester from Leicester, renowned for his comebacks, took the next three to level up before Williams clinched his 9-7 win.

After the match, Williams said: "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.

"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."

Williams will welcome the addition of this silverware into his bulging trophy cabinet, which now boasts 18 ranking event titles. But up to number three in the world rankings now, he'll be hoping this is just the beginning of another purple patch on the baize.

With the next ranking event being his home event, the Welsh Open, kicking off later this month, Williams could against all the odds become world number one before the next cut-off ahead of the World Championships.

Although, he won't want to think too far ahead just yet.

As for Selby, he'll be gutted to only claim the runner-up cheque at this event, but after a dismal showing at the Masters earlier this month, he'll be pleased to have finally got his 2011 off and running, and look back to somewhere near his best.

Not only do Williams and Selby have reason to celebrate after this fantastic Berlin showpiece, but snooker does too.

The game ended 2010 with one of it's best tournaments for a considerable number of years. The UK Championships in Telford exceeded all expectations and the quality of play was out of this world.

This meant it was always going to be a tough act to follow in 2011. But we've already been blessed with three smashing events.

The Masters brought the sport it's first ever all-Asian final.

Then the Shoot-Out proved the kind of fun that can be had with a new format of the game.

And now the German Masters captured everyone's imagination. And that was despite the withdrawal of Ronnie O'Sullivan, a first round exit for world champion Neil Robertson and world number one John Higgins pulling out of the tournament.

While an exciting final always helps to bring a tournament to the boil, it was the crowd who made this event such a roaring success.

Matches were consistently sold out, and the final saw more than 2,500 spectators flood into the venue.

Germany has become somewhat of a hot-bed for snooker fans in recent years. And when World Snooker gave them their first major ranking event since 1997, they embraced it.

It's safe to say, snooker will be back in Berlin next year.

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