Monday, March 27, 2006

Williams ends long wait for title

Wales' Mark Williams beat Scotland's John Higgins 9-8 in a dramatic China Open final to secure his first ranking title since 2003.

It was Williams' 16th ranking title but the first since he beat Higgins to win the LG Cup almost three years ago.

The victory will also secure Williams' place in the elite top 16.

"That probably goes down as one of my most satisfying wins ever," said the double world champion. "I haven't lifted a trophy for such a long time."

Williams, who moves up to seventh in the world rankings, and new world number two Higgins were deadlocked virtually all day and went into the evening session tied at four frames each.

Higgins won the opening frame with a 54 break, but the pair shared the next three frames in a series of fierce tactical battles.

Williams took the lead for the first time in frame five with his first 50 break, but again Higgins hit back. And the Scot should have gone 5-3 up but a miscue let Williams level at 4-4.

There have been times when I thought I might never get to lift a trophy again
Mark Williams

It was more of the same after the break, both players never more than one frame apart and neither man able to compile any sizeable breaks.

Fate looked to have conspired against Williams when, leading 8-7, he was presented with an easy chance to close out the match.

With the balls wide open, though, he suffered a big 'kick' that caused an otherwise simple black to go astray and allowed Higgins to save the match with a 64 break.

Then in the final frame Williams looked to have almost lost the match when, leading 17-15, he found himself trapped behind the green ball.

After three consecutive fouls, he was down 17-27, but Higgins then missed an easy red to let Williams back in.

Higgins had another chance to take the title when, trailing 44-51 and with all the colours still on the table, he missed an easy green.

And Williams then finally closed out the match, pocketing the remaining required colours.

Williams added: "There have been times in the last couple of years when I thought I might never get to lift a trophy again.

"Not only that - but to beat the best player in the world this season with the World Championship just around the corner, it couldn't really be much better."

Higgins said: "I'm throwing in a few bad shots and that cost me but generally my game is good.

"I'll go to the Crucible in a couple of weeks time with plenty of confidence."

J Higgins (Sco) 8-9 M Williams (Wal)

85-1 (54), 60-63, 66-60 (66,56) 52-72, 0-69 (60), 81-4 (74), 68-25, 32-73 (66), 0-67, 71-57, 42-78 (61), 58-39, 75-0 (67), 12-70 (69), 47-58, 87-28 (64), 44-69

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