Williams bares it all after victory

From top: Welshman Mark Williams attending his press conference naked after winning his third world title. Mark Williams playing a shot against Scotland's John Higgins during the World Championship Snooker final match at The Crucible in Sheffield, En
Above: Mark Williams playing a shot against Scotland's John Higgins during the World Championship Snooker final match at The Crucible in Sheffield, England on Monday. PHOTO: TWITTER PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
From top: Welshman Mark Williams attending his press conference naked after winning his third world title. Mark Williams playing a shot against Scotland's John Higgins during the World Championship Snooker final match at The Crucible in Sheffield, En
Above: Mark Williams celebrating with his wife Joanne and three children - Conor (far left), Joel (centre) and Kian. All his boys were born after he won his previous world title in 2003.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Welshman is oldest world snooker champion since 1978, reveals he almost quit the sport

LONDON • Mark Williams strode into his post-final press conference on Monday clad in nothing but a towel before quipping: "Cold in here innit?"

Yet he was clothed in glory after claiming his third World Snooker Championship victory at The Crucible in Sheffield, England. He became the oldest winner since fellow Welshman Ray Reardon lifted the crown at the age of 45 in 1978.

Williams failed to qualify for the main draw last year and nearly quit the sport, only to be persuaded otherwise by his wife, Joanne.

"It's an unbelievable story really," said the 43-year-old.

"Two months ago, I was thinking about chucking it in and here I am now, naked, doing an interview having just won the 2018 world championship, beating John Higgins 18-16.

"Where's it come from?"

He was not alone in asking the question after the closest final since 2005 and the oldest pairing in the history of the final .

Players and fans alike were trying to get their heads round a final that swung one way, then the other over the course of two days, and required 34 of the maximum 35 frames to reach a verdict.


Above: Welshman Mark Williams attending his press conference naked after winning his third world title.  PHOTO: TWITTER 

For the awaiting media, they had to adapt to the sight of Williams conducting his press conference as champion in the buff - the towel was a gesture towards modesty made only at the insistence of World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and was promptly removed during the interview.

Williams had pledged to conduct his press conference naked as a joke earlier in the tournament, in the event he became champion.

He had been in good form, winning two ranked tournaments before his triumphant return to Sheffield, and the battle between two graduates of the class of 1992 was just another subplot in a final that had almost no end.

Williams and Higgins, 42, first played each other in the 1994 Thailand Open.

Higgins won his first of four world titles in 1998 while Williams had last clinched the world championship in 2003.

"I went out there to enjoy it. Win or lose, I can honestly say I didn't really mind," said Williams, whose calmness was the defining aspect of his performance.

"I was just enjoying the occasion and it felt amazing. I got a bit emotional in the end but deservedly so, as it's a big occasion for me.

"To be honest, I thought these days had all passed."

UNDRESSED FOR SUCCESS

Two months ago, I was thinking about chucking it in and here I am now, naked, doing an interview having just won the 2018 world championship.

MARK WILLIAMS, the oldest world snooker champion in 40 years, admitting that he almost retired from the sport earlier this year.

For Higgins, the feelings were different. The Scot lost last year's final, beaten by an exhilarating comeback from England's Mark Selby.

For much of the final day, it looked as if Higgins might achieve a similar feat for himself.

Trailing by three frames overnight and at one point 14-7 down, he came back to level the match at 15 frames each only for Williams to clinch it at the last.

Asked if this was a more satisfying way to lose, he said: "Pain is pain.

"The break he (Williams) made in the last frame, especially the first red, it's one of the best breaks I've ever seen under pressure."

Both men say they will be back at the Crucible - the home of snooker - next year.

Williams also knew what he was about to do more immediately and made a promise to again go the Full Monty next year - with theatrics.

"I'm going to party the night away," said the left-hander, who was also the world champion in 2000.

"The last time I won it, I had a glass of milk and went to bed. I'm not going to bed this time.

"If I won this again next year, I'd do this again - I'd cartwheel round here naked."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Williams bares it all after victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe