OLD adversaries Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan go head-to-head for a place in the Welsh Open final this evening – just as they did back in 1999, writes Paul Martin.
The Welshman survived a Tom Ford fightback to progress 5-4 at Celtic Manor on Friday evening and set up a 48th career meeting between two of the infamous ‘Class of 92’.
Williams won 6-1 at the same stage 22 years ago on his way to his second – and most recent – Welsh Open win while he also triumphed 3-1 when the pair met in the Championship League nine days ago.
The Rocket advanced into the last four on a walkover following Ali Carter’s withdrawal through illness and Williams admits he can scarcely believe the pair are still going head-to-head on such a big stage.
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“I’ve been playing him since we were 12 or 13 in junior tournaments – I’m 46 next month,” he said.
“For us to still be playing each other in semi-finals of major tournaments is unbelievable.
“If you don’t enjoy playing someone like Ronnie in the semi-finals of a big tournament, you shouldn’t be playing the game.
“I played him in the Championship League last week and absolutely destroyed him, so he’s on my mantelpiece for a change.
“It’s going to be difficult, he seems to be playing well. But at the end of the day, neither of us are as good as we used to be so there will be chances.”
O’Sullivan has dropped just a solitary frame in the tournament to date and Williams was making similarly serene progress until coming up against Ford’s stubborn resistance.
The three-time world champion raced into a 3-0 lead but the Leicester potter hit back to take four of the next five frames and set up a third decider of a thrilling Friday
Ford looked set to complete a resurgent comeback when he edged in front but his break ended at 32 and Williams made him pay with a visit of 48 to keep his bid for a third Welsh Open title on course.
“I felt more focused in that match and I was trying harder than in the other three but struggled more,” he said
“I missed a few easy ones but that’s going to happen in best-of-nines.
“I felt a bit nervous towards the end but I rolled a few in and nicked it. It was a good break under pressure.
“With it being at Celtic Manor, and what happened with Doug (Mountjoy) passing away, it would be lovely to lift it. But there’s a long way to go.”