Williams books Crucible place

Two-time former winner Mark Williams claimed he will be the man the world’s elite players will want to avoid in Wednesday’s World Championship draw after clinching his Crucible place.

Two-time former winner Mark Williams claimed he will be the man the world’s elite players will want to avoid in Wednesday’s World Championship draw after clinching his Crucible place.

The 33-year-old Welshman guaranteed himself a first-round berth with a 10-5 victory over Leicestershire cueman Tom Ford in the final round of qualifying at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport venue today.

Williams looked in excellent shape and fired in a break of 145 on his way to seeing off Ford.

He may already have enough ranking points now to ensure his return to Sheffield for the tournament proper next month is not a nerve-jangling experience, with his short spell outside the world’s top 16 almost certainly over.

“I’m there and I’ve got my points and I think possibly I’m the one they’ll want to miss,” said Williams.

“It’s out of my hands now.”

He joked: “Hopefully Willie Thorne sneaks in and I draw him.

“(But) I’ll probably end up with O’Sullivan or someone like that.

“He’s the only one I really want to miss.”

Williams, the first of three former world champions attempting to qualify this week, raced into a 7-2 lead against Ford in the first session of the day.

He rattled in breaks of 105 and the immaculate 145 total clearance, plus runs of 51, 76, 80 and 72 as he dominated against his 25-year-old opponent.

The 2000 and 2003 champion had been slow to find his rhythm but once he came to terms with his unfamiliar environment – playing on one of five tables in a badminton hall – he surged in front on the back of winning six consecutive frames.

Ford ensured the final score was respectable by fighting on in the late-afternoon session, but Williams was not to be denied.

He will earn a small bonus of £1,000 (€1,100) for his high break, providing nobody betters it in the remaining qualifiers, which conclude tomorrow when former winners Steve Davis and Ken Doherty will be among the hopefuls.

However had it been the highest break in the televised stages it would have been worth £10,000 (€11,000).

“I knew I was on a big one so went for the 145 and I surely must get about £25,000 (€27,300) for that,” Williams joked.

“I’m looking forward to spending that!”

Williams will be joined at the Crucible by Liang Wenbo, the Chinese youngster who also qualified last year and took the tournament by storm.

Eleven months ago Liang reached the quarter-finals where he gave Ronnie O’Sullivan a brief fright, and he will be back at the South Yorkshire theatre after beating Dave Harold 10-3. The highlights of his emphatic victory were back-to-back centuries, 120 and 100, in the fourth and fifth frames.

“I played well,” said 22-year-old Liang, whose words were translated by his countryman and fellow professional Ding Junhui.

“I was nervous when I started but not after a few frames.”

Asked which top-16 player he would like to draw on Wednesday, Liang said: “Anyone.”

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