Mark Williams does it again

Welshman Mark Williams won the world Embassy snooker championship for the second time, beating Ken Doherty of Ireland by 18 frames to 16 in a thrilling final in Sheffield, England.

Welshman Mark Williams won the world Embassy snooker championship for the second time, beating Ken Doherty of Ireland by 18 frames to 16 in a thrilling final in Sheffield, England.

Mark Williams in action in the final. After winning the World championship title, the Welshman said: "When I won the World title the first time I was World No. 1 at the same time and now I'm World No. 1 again, which is an amazing feeling." — Pic. TOM SHAW/GETTY IMAGES-

The 28-year-old is the third player, after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry to complete the triple crown of Masters, UK Championship and World Championship in a season.

He is also the first player, since compatriot Ray Reardon in 1982/83 to regain the World number one slot. Williams has not only regained his world title, but also is back on top of the Embassy World rankings.

With Ronnie O'Sullivan suffering a shock first-round exit at Sheffield, Williams was already assured of the No 1 spot after beating seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry 13-7 in the quarterfinals.

The 28-year-old Welsh left-hander is only the second player to regain the top position in the rankings, emulating fellow Welshman Ray Reardon, who achieved the feat in 1982.

It is also the second time Williams has held both the world title and World No 1 spot. He did the double in 2000. "When I won the World title the first time I was World No. 1 at the same time and now I'm World No. 1 again, which is an amazing feeling," he said.

"I'm only the second man to get the World No. 1 spot back. When you get mentioned with the likes of Hendry, Davis and Ray Reardon it's unbelievable. I've won all the big tournaments this season and picked up a few rankings points. Terry Griffiths (his coach) has helped me along and I've been flying."

Doherty fought from 11-5 down overnight to level it at 12-12 after the first session, and then from 16-14 down to 16-16 — but in the end Williams had just enough to prevail.

"I knew he was going to come back as he had been doing it all week," Williams admitted. "When he drew level I was absolutely terrified!"

Williams, whose psychological guru is former world champion Terry Griffiths, said he had thought he was going to lose in the first session. "It looked like he was going to win it and I was relieved when the session ended. It's unbelievable to have won the triple crown," said Williams, who was watched nervously by his fiancee Jo Dent.

Doherty said he had drawn on his last reserves when he trailed 10-2 during the second session. "I was looking dead and buried and I am delighted that I was able to get back yet again and be involved in such a great match. I thought it would go down to the final frame but Mark played some great snooker to win the last two," said 33-year-old Doherty, who was World champion in 1997.

Doherty joked that he shouldn't actually have been there in the final as every match but one he had played in the tournament had gone to the deciding frame — including a remarkable comeback from 15-9 down in the semi-final. "I should probably have gone home two weeks ago!

"It's disappointing to lose a match like the final — but at least my wife and family can relax now for a while!" added Doherty, whose last title was the Thailand Masters in 2001.

Doherty could console himself with a cheque of 158,000 pounds. Williams took home 270,000 pounds — though he wasn't going out to get another Ferrari, which he had done on the first occasion, when he won in 2000.

Doherty produced one of the greatest comebacks in Crucible history to beat Paul Hunter of England 17-16 in the semifinal. Trailing 15-9 at the start of play, Doherty knew Hunter only needed two frames to win the match. But the Irishman showed amazing nerve to take the first five frames. "It was the most incredible game I have ever played in," said Doherty.

"I always believe that I have a chance. I always say to myself, if you dream about it, it will come true. It's one of the best feelings.

"I thought if I keep taking frames it is going to get harder and harder for him. If you keep crawling back, then sometimes the tie can be won."

Doherty revealed he used the fear from his near-collapse against John Higgins to inspire him to his amazing win. The Irishman saw his 10-0 lead evaporate to 10-7 against the Scot in the quarterfinals before he rallied to win 13-8.

"Against Paul, I put myself in the position of John Higgins when he was playing me," said Doherty.

"I was feeling the pressure in that match. I put Paul in my shoes and just kept chipping away at his lead." Hunter remained philosophical despite missing out on a first-ever appearance in a Crucible final. "I just didn't get any rub of the green at all. I am devastated but hopefully it will make me stronger," he said.

Williams defeated Stuart Pettman 10-2 in the first round and put it past Quinten Hann 13-2, later he got past Stephen Lee 17-8 in the semifinal. On the other hand, Doherty had to ward of challenges after challenges. In the first round, he fought back to defeat Shaun Murphy of England 10-9. Then he put it across Graeme Dott of Scotland 13-12 in the second before posting a come-from-behind win over John Higgins 13-8.

Meanwhile, Peter Ebdon's reign as World champion ended as cool kid Paul Hunter came out on top in a dramatic final-frame finish in the quarterfinals. Hunter bounced back from 12-10 to 12-12 but the 24-year-old regained his composure for the deciding frame. "I knew it was going to be a tough match. I fancied it going all the way," said the World No. 9 from Leeds, who won just one match in his first four visits to the Crucible. "I didn't get a chance from 12-10 to 12-12 so I wasn't upset with myself and I tried to stay positive."

Ebdon had built his whole season around Sheffield — insisting that other tournaments would simply provide match practice to become the only player to successfully defend the World title after winning it for the first time. Ebdon said, "I wasn't playing as well as I can but I was in there fighting and that's what I do best."

Ebdon, World No.3 said: "Paul's a tremendous player and it was only a matter of time before he did well here. He stepped up a gear when he needed to. I was a bit unlucky in the last frame but that's snooker."

Stephen Lee of England reached the semi-finals of the Embassy World Championship for the first time in his 11-year professional career with a 13-7 defeat of Marco Fu. After the victory Lee said, "I've watched others playing on the single table and it looks a different class."

The World No. 7 from Wiltshire has fallen twice before at the quarterfinals stage, but it was third time lucky for the 28-year-old as he pulled away from Hong Kong's Fu. Lee was snooker's most consistent performer last season, winning the LG Cup and Regal Scottish and gathering more ranking points than any other player.

Lee won the first five frames of the second session — knocking in breaks of 75, 71 and 57 — to establish a 9-4 lead. Fu pulled one back and looked sure to add the next after a 72. But his opponent got the two snookers he required then cleared from green to black for a 10-5 advantage going into the concluding session.

Fu reduced his deficit in a scrappy first frame and had a chance in the second but missed a tough final brown to the middle pocket. Lee cleared the pink for 11-6.

Back came the Asian player again to win the next with a 54. Frame 19 was another fragmented one, but it went to Lee with a cool 30 clearance from the last red to put him five up with six to play at the mid-session interval.

He needed just one more frame to finish the match as another colours clearance — 40 this time — sealed his place in the last four.

Fu, the first Asian player to feature in the quarter-finals since James Wattana in 1997, performed superbly to knock out Ronnie O'Sullivan and Alan McManus. He matched Lee in the first session, but ran out of gas later.

"It was a good experience for me to beat O'Sullivan and McManus and I'm pretty happy to have got to the quarters. I will feel more comfortable playing at the Crucible in the future," Fu said.

Two out of every five viewers watching terrestrial television were tuned in to the snooker on BBC Two to see Mark Williams regain the World Championship. 7.1 million snooker fans watched the final. This was a massive audience share of 40.2 per cent.

It is the second successive year the World final has topped seven million. A spokesman for tournament organisers World Snooker said: "Snooker continues to attract huge viewing figures and they were up across the board for this year's World Championship."

"There were some superb matches during the 17 days at Sheffield this year, some nail-biting finishes — most of them involving Ken Doherty — and, of course, Ronnie O'Sullivan's maximum 147 got the tournament off to a great start. "Both World Snooker and BBC Sport are delighted with the figures and we look forward to building on this success next season."

The Embassy World champion later said: "When I get home I'll put the three trophies up together, then what I've achieved might start to sink in," said Williams at his Sheffield hotel as he reflected on his remarkable triumph. "I've got quite a big mantelpiece in the front room, but I might need to have it extended.

"I can't be classed in the same bracket as Hendry and Davis because they are legends of the game, but I'm over the moon at what I've done this season. My mate Sargie (Ian Sargeant) hit me a few times before the last session (in the final) and managed to kick me into gear. Then at the interval Terry Griffiths (his coach) helped me to relax and play off instinct. I could have had a fight with him as well but he's a bit too old — I might have killed him!"

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the money yet, but I'm sure Jo (fianc� Jo Dent) will have some fun spending it. I'll play a bit of golf, football and badminton — anything but snooker. After the first time I won the World Championship I didn't work hard enough and I went a long way downhill. I never thought of jacking the game in, but it took a lot of friends and family — and Terry — to convince me to start getting out of bed and on to the practice table. I've got back up the hill now and I don't want to go down it again."

Williams also set an Embassy World Championship record becoming the first player to win 13 consecutive frames in a single match (against Hendry) at the Crucible.

"It's unbelievable to win 13 frames on the spin. I didn't know it was a record until after the match. That's another one that Hendry hasn't got!"

The results: (final):

Mark Williams (Wales) bt Ken Doherty (Ire) 18-16 (60-37, 82-55, 0-97, 73-29, 86-30, 82-12, 74-30, 75-56, 24-85, 118-4, 76-1, 101-0, 0-79, 69-70, 75-0, 51-60, 10-73, 31-62, 6-128, 17-61, 49-82, 39-70, 68-41, 0-115, 62-19, 23-98, 87-0, 45-78, 121-0, 77-0, 17-68, 9-120, 96-28, 120-0.

Semifinals: Doherty bt Paul Hunter (Eng)17-16; Williams bt Stephen Lee (Eng) 17-8.

Quarterfinals: Hunter bt Peter Ebdon (Eng) 13-12; Doherty bt John Higgins (Sco)13-8; Williams bt Stephen Hendry (Sco) 13-7; Lee (Eng) bt Marco Fu (Chinese Hong Kong) 13-7.

List of World snooker champions since 1971. 1971: John Spencer (England). 1972: Alex Higgins (Northern Ireland). 1973: Ray Reardon (Wales). 1974: Reardon. 1975: Reardon. 1976: Reardon. 1977: Spencer. 1978: Reardon. 1979: Terry Griffiths (Wales). 1980: Cliff Thorburn (Canada). 1981: Steve Davis (England). 1982: Alex Higgins (Northern Ireland). 1983: Davis. 1984: Davis. 1985: Dennis Taylor (Northern Ireland). 1986: Joe Johnson (England). 1987: Davis. 1988: Davis. 1989: Davis. 1990: Stephen Hendry (Scotland). 1991: John Parrott (England). 1992: Hendry. 1993: Hendry. 1994: Hendry. 1995: Hendry. 1996: Hendry. 1997: Ken Doherty (Ireland). 1998: John Higgins (Scotland). 1999: Hendry. 2000: Mark Williams (Wales). 2001: Ronnie O'Sullivan (England). 2002: Peter Ebdon (England). 2003: Williams.