Mark Williams closes in on Crucible spot as he faces Mark Selby in Beijing final

Published: Saturday 1st April 2017 by The News Editor

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Mark Williams is relishing his clash with snooker’s toughest nut to crack on Sunday as he stands just one win away from clinching an automatic place in the World Championship.

The 42-year-old will take on his fellow two-time world champion Mark Selby in the final of the Bank of Beijing China Open, knowing his hopes of avoiding the dicey qualifying stage for the Crucible hinge on the result.

If Williams lifts the title, he will sneak into the all-important last 16 at the expense of fellow Welshman Ryan Day, who failed to qualify for this week’s tournament, but if not he must play three best-of-19-frame preliminary matches to earn a place in the 32-man draw.

World number one Selby is chasing his fourth title of the season, and set up Sunday’s best-of-19 clash with Williams by finishing strongly to beat Kyren Wilson 6-4 on Saturday.

Williams had earlier overcome Judd Trump’s Iranian conqueror Hossein Vafaei 6-1 to keep alive hopes of a first major crown since 2011.

Speaking about his mission to clinch direct entry to the World Championship, Williams said: “I’ve been practising quite a bit lately. I know about the incentive that if I win the tournament, I qualify for the Crucible, but I haven’t won in a while.”

He told worldsnooker.com: “At the start of the week it was five or six games to qualify for the Crucible and looked out of my reach. Now it’s only one match, it’s within my grasp now really.

“I’m not anxious or nervous, I’m just excited. I’ve won this tournament a few times before and this is one of my favourite places to come and play.”

This is an event Williams has won three times previously, in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Williams may have one omen in his favour as he prepares to face the world’s top player, and it dates back to his last ranking event title at the 2011 German Masters. The man he defeated that day was Selby.

Published: Saturday 1st April 2017 by The News Editor

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