Of all the tournaments played last season the German Masters stood out as a real success story.

It attracted huge numbers of spectators who displayed a deep knowledge of - and healthy respect for - snooker.

And the title was won by a player returning to the peak of his powers. Mark Williams proved in Berlin and elsewhere last season that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

So much so, in fact, that the Welsh left-hander has returned to no.1 in the world after a gap of seven years.

Williams had dropped to 47th, but only in the provisional rankings. His lowest official ranking was 22nd.

Even this was too low for one of the finest talents the game has ever seen. At 36, he considers himself an “old man” in snooker terms but it’s clear he still has plenty left in the tank.

He could have won the World Championship too but went out in the semi-finals to John Higgins.

There were two reasons for this. The first was obviously how well Higgins played but in the third session the pressure got to Williams, due surely to the fact it had been eight years since he had last played in the one table set up at the Crucible.

Mark will never be everyone’s cup of tea (who is, for that matter?). I know some in the game feel he could be more professional off table but I have to say I have always found him to be nothing other than a perfect gent, and always true to who he is.

He doesn’t like doing interviews and loathes stuffy formality but look at how sporting he was to Higgins after the heckler incident in their world semi-final.

That says more about him than any number of press conferences or what he’s chosen to wear.

Because the truth is Mark has never really changed. Yes, snooker has given him a good lifestyle but he’s basically the same cheeky lad he was when he turned professional.

He doesn’t act the star because he doesn’t see himself as a star. To Williams, he’s just a bloke who plays snooker. It’s a job, a way of earning money.

Losing doesn’t leave him in the pits of despair. He turns up, gives it his best, hopes to have some fun and, win or lose, goes home in pretty much the same mood.

I’m sure there are many people reading this who would love to find that level of everyday contentment.

And Williams has a game that, when it’s working, is as good as anyone’s. A fantastic long potter, he is also a master at scrapping out those horrible frames so many other players don’t like being involved in.

The good news for Williams is that there will be more tournaments than ever before outside the UK this season. He has always been a good traveller, again because he has the right attitude about playing overseas.

As a boy growing up in a waning mining community in South Wales he could never have imagined he would one day be travelling to places like Bangkok, Beijing and Berlin to play snooker and be handsomely remunerated for it.

So Williams is back on top of the rankings, back in the winning groove and back where he belongs, as one of snooker’s authentic greats.

His will surely add to his trophy collection in the year to come.


Anonymous said...

personally i think Mark comes over very professional.

last season he committed to the PTC and made them work for him if thats not definition of professional i don't know what is.

kildare cueman said...

I think Williams' laid back style is more of a Welsh trait than a personal one.

All the Welsh players seem to be down to earth and don't allow success to go to their heads. A Sunday morning club handicap in Wales might feature 3 of the world's top 16 playing best of 3 for a first prize of 50 quid.

Williams however, is definitely the best Welshman since, and possibly including, Reardon.

He scores high in all departments and I cannot find a weakness. Apart from putting in the odd quick one his potting, position, safety, acumen and bottle are all top drawer.

He is at the age now, like O'Sullivan, Higgins and Lee, where his long potting is on a slight downward curve. This is usually compensated by a gradual improvement in position and tactical nous, but Williams is still pretty good with the long ones.

I would have liked him to win the championship this year. Think he deserved it after his renaissance, and it would have been a good tussle between himself, O'Sullivan and Higgins to get to 4 first.

Having said that, he was probably a bit fortunate to win his first, in which Stevens first implosion occured in the final.

Great player though, and at the risk of echoing Willie Thorne, is surely in the top 5 or 6 of all time.

jamie brannon said...

Never really took to Williams when he was a leading player between the years of 1998-2005. It was probably, in part, a subconscious thing - as a Hendry fan was uncomfortable with Williams, Higgins and O'Sullivan breaking up his hegemony.

However, since his revival I have warmed to his laconic manner around the table and his deadpan wit.

One of the five best players to watch in the games history.

An undoubted all-time, which shows that Robertson has got some work to do before being showered with such praise.

There are a number of similarities between the pair. Both fearsome long potters, left-handers and possess a laidback temperament that belies a steely desire to succeed.

They also have a good perspective on what snooker means in the grand scheme of things.

Anonymous said...

Being a big fan of Williams, I was gutted when he didn't win the World title this year. Knowing Williams though, he will have shrugged his shoulders and sad "there's always next year".
That, combined with his attitude to the PTC'S and the overseas ranking events says all that needs to be said about him.

Anonymous said...

If there are people who think Mark Williams isn't professional off the table then they need their heads testing.

He is one of the nicest guys you could meet, and he has a wicked sense of humour. Frankly, without him in the game, snooker would be missing a character.

For me, I'm delighted to see Williams back at the top, and back to his very best, which is a great sight to see as a snooker fan.

Anonymous said...

jamie youve never been a hendry fan in your life!

youre a ronnie fanboy

i do agree with some of your comment tho, just not the fib ;)

Anonymous said...

nice to hear from you Mrs. Williams

Witz78 said...

As good as peak Williams is, i wouldnt have him near my all time top 5.

Reardon, Davis, A Higgins, J Higgins, White, Hendry, Ronnie would all be ahead of him for starters.

jamie brannon said...

Think Williams would be top ten.

Funny how an anonymous poster knows who my favourite players have been down the years!

Have explained the switch to O'Sullivan before, and not going to labour on about it again.

wild said...

Witz78 what does it take to get in your top 5 its certainly not winning ranking titles, Reardon, A Higgins and White have 15 between them where as Williams has 18??

Anonymous said...

my name is jack.
hope that helps

Witz78 said...

Wild...or whoever you are !!!

Being in my top5 isnt all about winning titles but firstly for the record, Reardon, Jimmy and Alex have far more than 15 rankers between them.

If you fail to recognise early tournaments as rankers even though these were actually UK or World crowns, then your as deluded as the idiots who claim Hendry leads Davis 36-28 on ranking events won. Anyone with half a brain knows Davis had no say in the matter cos most of the tournaments he was dominating in the early 80s wouldnt become rankers until Hendry started winning them.

Anyway went off topic there slightly, fact is Reardon had 6 worlds and the '82 Players Tournament so thats 7 rankers for me, Alex had 2 Worlds and a UK, and Jimmy had 10 rankers, so worst case scenario these 3 have 20 between them in my book.

Reardon dominated a decade, was the first true champion of the modern game and with 6 World Crowns more than deserves his place among the elite. Just cos its 30-40 years now since his prime, why should his achievment suddenly be rendered irrelevant.

Alex is the superstar who made snooker what it is today, no Alex = no snooker, simple as that. Sure he didnt have a winning mentality but he could play like nobody else so hes on my list.

And Jimmys walks all over the bulk of World Champions for fun, in his prime he would have destroyed todays top players in his sleep.

Anonymous said...

Witz78 "Just cos its 30-40 years now since his prime, why should his achievment suddenly be rendered irrelevant"

Well going by that then ever heard of Joe Davis by any chance??

Anonymous said...

joe davis was steves uncle

fred was too

Betty Logan said...

Let's not forget John Higgins and his father Alex, and the Robertson brothers Neil and Jimmy. You aren't an Irish news presenter by any chance, anon?

Toestubber said...

There is no way on Earth you can be classed as an all-time great without winning a world title. White had 6 chances (2 which he REALLY should have won) and didn't take one. But Hendry, Parrot and Davis played brilliant you say. Well tough!!!


Mat Wilson

Anonymous said...

Mat Wilson, your list is about right. Witz 78 list is more of a list of his fav players. How would Higgins and White be above Sullivan, Higgins and Williams. witz dosent understand snooker.

Witz78 said...

I didnt have Jimmy and Alex ahead of Ronnie.

I simply listed them among 7 players in no particular order who i rate above Williams.

Come on, prime Alex or Jimmy played the game at a different level to Williams.

It seems even Steve Davis is disregarded now by most when they talk about the best players, instead they play it safe and stick with the Big 4 of the 90s/2000s.

Give it a decade when new talents emerge and dominate and these guys will probably be erased into history too.

Anonymous said...

Dave can you clarify how many official ranking titles won by the above named players?

Toestubber said...

Come on, prime Alex or Jimmy played the game at a different level to Williams.>>

Erm...What year was it Williams won ALL, that's right ALL 4 major televised tournaments against the strongest fields ever assembled (Hendry, Ronnie, J.Higgins all in their prime)in snooker history?

Alex was good but the strength of opponents now is orders of magnitude stronger.

Mat Wilson

ps Mind you Williams is a scruffy get away from the table:-)

Anonymous said...

game, set and match to toestubber

Anonymous said...

well said 1025 (toestubbers mum)