Sport country: Wales
Highest ranking: ¹ 1
Highest break: 147
Career winnings: £4,727,141
Nickname: Welsh Potting Machine, Sprog, The Welsh Wonder
Tournament wins: 27
World Champion: 2 (2000, 2003)
Mark James Williams, MBE (born 21 March 1975) is a Welsh professional snooker player who has been World Champion twice, in 2000 and 2003. Often noted for his single-ball potting, he has earned the nickname "The Welsh Potting Machine". He has been ranked the world number 1 for a total of three seasons in his career.
The first left-handed player to win the World Championship, Williams has won 18 ranking tournaments (fifth on the all-time list), including the UK Championship twice, in 1999 and 2002. He has also won the Masters on two occasions, in 1998 and 2003. Williams' most successful season in his career to date was the 2002/2003 season, when he won the acclaimed treble of tournaments (known as the Triple Crown): the UK Championship, the Masters and the World Championship. He is the third player after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry to win all three Triple Crown events in one season. Following his second World Championship his form declined, and he dropped out of the top 16 following the 2007/2008 season, but regained his place for 2009/2010. As a prolific break-builder, Williams has compiled more than 350 century breaks during his career.
Williams was born in Cwm, Ebbw Vale, and started playing snooker at an early age. He scored his first century when he was 13. He won his first junior event when he was 11 and it was then that he realised that he wanted to pursue a career as a snooker player. He was encouraged to play by his father Dilwyn, who was a miner. When he was 15 he did a 12-hour shift down the mines. Williams was also a promising Amateur boxer, being undefeated in 12 fights as a schoolboy, but he decided to pursue his snooker career instead. He turned professional in 1992 and finished his first season ranked 119th, and within three seasons was ranked in the Worlds top 16, breaking into the 16 for the 1996/1997 season. Williams` first ranking tournament win came in January 1996, when he claimed the Welsh Open title, beating John Parrott 9–3 in the final. After failing to qualify for the 1996 World Championship, he won the first ranking event of the new season – the Grand Prix – in October 1996, beating surprise finalist Euan Henderson 9–5 in the final. In April 1997, he also won the British Open, beating Stephen Hendry 9–2 in the final. He also beat Hendry in the final to win his first Masters title in February 1998, winning on the final black 10–9 after recovering from 6–9 down, in a thrilling final. At the 1997 World Championship, he was drawn against Terry Griffiths, the latter's last appearance at the Crucible as a player; he eventually beat his coach 10–9 on the black, but lost 8–13 to Hendry in the last 16. In the 1998 World Championship, he reached the semi-finals, losing 14–17 to Ken Doherty. He was runner-up next year to Hendry.
The 1999/2000 season was a very successful one for Williams, winning both the UK Championship and the World Championship. These results, along with another ranking title and three runner-up positions, allowed him to capture the world number 1 position for the first time. In the World Championship final he came from 7–13 behind his fellow countryman, Matthew Stevens to eventually win 18–16. He also produced a notable comeback in his semi-final match against John Higgins, coming from 10–14 down to win 17–15. Williams won only one ranking event in the following season, the Grand Prix, with a 9–5 victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final, but he was a runner-up in two other ranking events, the UK Championship and the China Open. This was enough to retain his number 1 ranking, although his title defence at the World Championship fell in the second round with a 12–13 defeat to Joe Swail.
In the 2001/2002 season Williams also only won one ranking tournament, as he struggled to find the form from the previous season, winning the China Open, where he defeated Anthony Hamilton 9–8 from 5–8 down in the final. However, he lost to the same player 9–13 in the second round of the World Championship and the number 1 ranking to Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Another strong performance came in 2002/2003 season when he won the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship titles. This made him only the fourth player after Hendry, Davis and John Higgins to hold these titles simultaneously, and only the third player after Davis and Hendry to have won them all in one season. These results enabled him to reclaim the number 1 spot at the of the season. In the UK Championship final he beat Ken Doherty 10–9, and in the Masters he beat Hendry 10–4, Before the 2003 World Championship he had a scare with his cue when it was damaged and badly bent on his flight with Ryanair to play in the Irish Masters, but he had it repaired before the tournament.
On his way to winning the 2003 World title, he had a relatively untroubled route to the final with wins over Stuart Pettman 10–2, Quinten Hann 13–2, Hendry 13–7 and Stephen Lee 17–8 before facing Doherty in the final. He led 10–2, and looked to be heading for an easy victory, before Doherty fought back to 16–16. Williams regained his composure under intense pressure to win the last two frames and lift the trophy for the second time.
The following season, he lost in the first round of the UK Championship to Fergal O'Brien, a match which ended his record run of 48 tournaments in which he had won his first match, His defence at the 2004 World Championship started with a 10–7 win over Dominic Dale, but he lost 11–13 in the second round to Joe Perry, and saw him endure a run of poor form over the 2004/2005 season where he slid to 9th in the world rankings for 2005/2006.
On 20 April, in 2005 he became the first Welshman, and the fifth player in history to score a maximum break at the Crucible Theatre in the World Championship. This came in the final frame of a 10–1 first round victory over Robert Milkins, but he lost in the second round to Ian McCulloch 12–13, in a high quality match.
On 26 March 2006, Williams won his 16th (and first ranking event in two and a half years), the China Open in Beijing, beating Higgins 9–8 in the final. This helped him return to the top 8 in the world rankings, after a dramatic fall in the provisional rankings which saw him facing a possible drop out of the top 16. He also showed good form in the 2006 World Championship, beating Anthony Hamilton 10–1 and Mark Selby 13–8 to set up a quarter-final clash with Ronnie O'Sullivan, the first time the two had met at the Crucible. The match was given extra tension considering they had been rivals, (although O'Sullivan has since said that the former feud has been replaced by friendship and respect). In a close fought match, O'Sullivan eventually won 13–11. It was revealed during that tournament that Williams had split with coach Terry Griffiths. The two remained very close friends, but Terry would no longer be coaching him. In late 2007, Williams returned to having Griffiths as his coach.
On 2 September 2006, Williams won the Pot Black trophy, after compiling a century break (119) in the final against John Higgins. However, Williams had perhaps the worst season of his career in 2006/2007, losing his first match in a string of tournaments (including the World Championship, for the first time ever), but he retained his top 16 place, mainly through the ranking points he had earned the previous season.
His first win of the 2007/2008 season came in the Grand Prix with a 4–3 win over Ian McCulloch, but he still failed to qualify for the last 16 of the event and was outside the top 32 on the provisional ranking list.
In the UK Championship, he showed a return to some form. He beat Ricky Walden comfortably 9–3 in the last 32, and in the last 16 he faced Mark Allen who led 4–0 and 5–1. However, a cool comeback saw him win the remaining 8 frames to win 9–5. In the quarter-finals, Stephen Maguire was too strong and beat him 9–5. However, reaching the quarter-finals was a sign that Williams may be returning to form, boosted by the news that Terry Griffiths was coaching him again.
However, after a 2–6 first round loss to Ken Doherty in the Masters, Williams revealed he was considering retirement from the game, although only 32 years old, if he dropped out of the top 32 and was forced to play in all the qualifying competitions. But he also claimed at the Welsh Open at Newport that this statement had been blown out of proportion, and that he would remain a professional. He began to show more consistency for the remainder of the season, reaching the last 16 of three ranking events and a run to the quarter-finals of the China Open, but he could not reach his first semi-final for 2 years, losing 3–5 against Ryan Day. At the World Championship he defeated Mark Davis, however a 7–13 defeat to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the second round forced him out of the top 16, pushing him into the qualifiers for 2008/2009. In that match he was on the receiving end of a 147 from O'Sullivan. On 8 July 2008 it was announced that Williams had split from his management company 110 Sport, following O'Sullivan and Stephen Maguire.
In 2008/2009 he reached the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters and UK Championship, but also suffered three qualifying defeats. The UK Championship particularly saw some return to form as he beat Mark Selby and Graeme Dott 9–7, before losing narrowly 8–9 to Ali Carter. He also qualified for the World Championship but lost 7–10 to Stephen Hendry after leading 7–5. During the end of the match he suffered some trouble with his tip. However, he had done enough to return to the top 16 at the end of the season.
The 2009/2010 season started badly however when Williams broke his wrist in a fall at home, less than a month before the first ranking event of the season, the Shanghai Masters. Despite this injury he played in Shanghai, wearing a cast on his wrist because removal of the cast could have caused long term damage. There he won his first round match against Joe Swail 5–3, but lost in the next round against John Higgins 1–5. In the Grand Prix he secured wins over Stuart Bingham, Stephen Hendry and Robert Milkins on his way to the semi-finals but despite racking up a 142 (the highest break of the tournament) in the first frame against Ding Junhui, he lost 1–6.
In the UK Championship he led Graeme Dott 6–2, before Dott retired due to illness and thus winning the match 9–2. After this he lost his next match against Peter Lines 8–9. At the Masters he won his wild card round match, beating Rory McLeod 6–2. Then he won his first round match against Ali Carter 6–3 to progress to the quarter-finals of the event, despite being involved in a traffic accident the day before his match against Carter. It was reported that a car drove into the back of the 4x4 his sponsors had lent him, which was carrying Williams and Stephen Hendry to a restaurant. In the quarter-finals he defeated Shaun Murphy 6–4, but eventually lost a high quality match in the semi-finals 5–6 against Ronnie O'Sullivan. In the Welsh Open, he reached the quarter-finals, beating Fergal O'Brien 5–2, Andrew Higginson 5–0 before losing against Stephen Maguire 1–5.
After these signs of form, in April 2010 he won his first ranking tournament in four years – the China Open. On his way he beat Jamie Cope 5–3, the then reigning world champion John Higgins 5–2, Marco Fu 5–1 and Ali Carter 6–4, setting up a clash with Ding Junhui in the final. Trailing 3–5 at one point, Williams eventually won the match 10–6. This was Williams' 17th ranking event win and his 3rd China Open. After his victory Williams said: "I'm over the moon to win again. It's been a long time coming but I've kept working hard and I felt that in the end the results would come."
In the World Snooker Championship Williams defeated Marcus Campbell 10–5 in the first round, but lost his second round match against Ronnie O'Sullivan 10–13. He finished the season ranked 8th.
Williams opened the season by winning the first event of the Players Tour Championship by defeating Stephen Maguire 4–0 in the final, a new addition to the snooker calendar introduced by Barry Hearn, a series of events that Williams has supported. Williams finished 6th on the Players Tour Championship Order of Merit.
In the Shanghai Masters Williams won his first round match against Ricky Walden 5–3, but lost narrowly in the second round against Graeme Dott 4–5. He then reached the semi-finals of the World Open, where he lost 2–3 against eventual winner Neil Robertson.
He was selected to compete in the 2010 Premier League, due to his success from the previous season, the first time he has competed in the event for five years, but failed to reach the semi-finals. At the UK Championship he reached the final, his run including a 9–8 victory over Shaun Murphy after trailing 6–8, but lost against John Higgins 9–10 in the final, after leading 7–2, 8–4 and 9–5 at some points of the match, as well as leading the 17th frame by 29 points with only the colours remaining, meaning Higgins needed a snooker to stay in the match. Williams' next tournament was the Masters, where he lost 4–6 in the first round against Ding Junhui. Williams won the first ranking event of 2011, the German Masters, by defeating Mark Selby 9–7 in the final. At the China Open Williams couldn't defend his title, as he lost in the first round 4–5 against Stephen Lee, despite making four centuries.
At the 2011 World Snooker Championship, Williams defeated Ryan Day 10–5 in the first round, and Jamie Cope 13–4 in the second round. He then won his quarter-final against Mark Allen by the same scoreline, and in doing so he reached the semi-final stage for the first time since 2003, but lost 14–17 against John Higgins. As a result of Selby's exit from the tournament Williams became the new world number one after the event.
At the World Cup Williams was partnered with Matthew Stevens to represent Wales, and they reached the semi-finals, losing 1–4 against China. Williams then reached the final of the Australian Goldfields Open, but lost 8–9 against Stuart Bingham, after leading 8–5 at one point of the match. Williams also lost from a winning position in the final of the next major ranking event, the Shanghai Masters. His run included a 6–5 win over Neil Robertson in the semi-final, and he led Mark Selby 9–7 in the final, but lost the last three frames to lose 9–10. The defeat also meant that Selby took the world number one spot from Williams. He was beaten in the last 16 of the UK Championship by Ricky Walden and reached the quarter-finals in his defence of the German Masters, where he succumbed 3–5 to Stephen Lee. Williams suffered a 1–5 defeat to Mark King in the first round of the World Open and by the same scoreline to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the second round of the China Open.
Williams played in 11 of the 12 PTC events throughout the season, but could only reach the last 32 two times, in Event 10 and Event 11. He was ranked 82nd in the PTC Order of Merit, comfortably outside the top 24 who made the Finals.
Williams caused a degree of controversy ahead of the World Championship by stating on his Twitter page that he "hates" the tournament's venue, the Crucible Theatre, and hopes it will be played in China soon. He also swore when describing the Grade II listed building. A spokesman from the WPBSA confirmed a statement would be released regarding the matter. Williams was drawn to play Liu Chuang in the first round and won 10–6 to set up a second round clash with O'Sullivan which he lost 6–13. The result meant that Williams has failed to beat O'Sullivan in over 10 years in ranking events. Williams ended the season ranked world number 3. It was revealed by World Snooker that Williams had been fined a total of £4,000 for his comments made before the World Championship.
Williams first ranking event of the 2012/2013 season was the Wuxi Classic, where he beat Tom Ford and Mark Allen, before losing 3–5 to Marcus Campbell in the quarter-finals. He went one better at the Shanghai Masters by seeing off Mark Davis, Ricky Walden and Joe Perry to face Judd Trump in the semi-finals. Trump was 5–1 up and on a break of 53 for the match, but Williams came back to trail 4–5 before losing the next frame to come up short of completing a comeback. Williams then suffered a huge dip in form as he lost in the first round of six successive ranking events, with him stating after his defeat to Mark King in the UK Championship that he was contemplating retirement. During his string of defeats he did beat Matthew Stevens in the non-ranking Masters from 4-1 down (Stevens also missed a pot for 5-1), but then lost 1–6 to eventual champion Mark Selby. At the China Open in March Williams won his first match in a ranking event since September with a 5–2 victory against L? Haotian and continued his run by defeating Ali Carter 5–4, before losing 1–5 to Selby in the quarter-finals. At the World Championship he lost 6–10 to debuting compatriot Michael White in the first round and admitted afterwards that the season had been one he would be looking forward to forgetting, but has committed to playing next year. His poor season saw him drop 12 places in the rankings to world number 15.
In July 2013 he won the Rotterdam Open defeating Mark Selby 4–3 in the final. This was Williams' second title in a Players Tour Championship event. However, he had a poor season in the ranking events as he failed to reach a single quarter-final for the first time since the 2006/2007 season. He did earn an encouraging 4–3 win over world number one Neil Robertson at the Welsh Open, saying afterwards that he was glad he had ignored his friend Stephen Hendry's advice to retire and believed he still had ranking event titles left in him. He had chances to move 3–0 ahead in the last 16 against Marco Fu, but lost 4–2 stating that the Williams who won two world titles over 10 years ago was "dead". In the qualifying rounds for the World Championship, Williams lost 10–8 to Alan McManus, meaning he was absent from the tournament for the first time since 1996. Williams finished the campaign as the world number 18, the first time he has ended the season outside of the top 16 in six years.
Williams lost in the second round of his first two ranking events of the 2014/2015 season. His first quarter-final of the campaign was at the International Championship and he trailed Ronnie O'Sullivan 3–0, before Williams won five successive frames with a high break of 120. The match would go into a deciding frame which Williams won to beat the five-time world champion for the first time in 12 years. His semi-final match against Mark Allen also went all the way, after Williams had been 7–4 down, and a miss on the final red proved crucial as he was defeated 9–8. He was beaten 6–2 by Stephen Maguire in the third round of the UK Championship.
After knocking out Judd Trump 4–1 to reach the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, Williams said that he no longer looks at winning tournaments and is currently more concerned with improving his ranking. He then made two centuries in defeating Marco Fu 5–1 to play in the semi-finals of the event for the first time since 2003. Williams took advantage of Ben Woollaston missing chances to send their match into a deciding frame after he had been 5–3 behind, but lost it to just fall short of reaching the final in his home tournament. Williams won through to the final of the minor-ranking Gdynia Open, but was whitewashed 4–0 by Neil Robertson. Despite only being 39 years old, Williams took part in the World Seniors Championship as he would turn 40 before the end of the season and he won the title by beating Fergal O'Brien 2–1. Another ranking event semi-final followed at the Indian Open, where he lost 4–2 to Michael White.
After defeating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the first round of the Players Championship Grand Final, Williams produced back-to-back comebacks from 3–1 down to knock out both Mark Selby and Matthew Selt 4–3. He then reached his first major ranking event final in over three years with a 4–2 win over Judd Trump and raced into a 3–0 lead against Joe Perry. However, his highest break in the next four frames was 14 as Perry fought back to triumph 4–3. In a rematch of the 2000 final, Williams played Matthew Stevens in the first round of the World Championship and was thrashed 10–2.
Williams is believed by some snooker pundits to be one of the greatest long potters in the game. He has compiled over 300 competitive centuries during his career, 14th on the all-time list of century makers, despite a tendency to play exhibition shots when a frame is won. He is also well known for his ability to win scrappy frames with his tactical play and picking out shots to nothing.
An unorthodox aspect of his style is a tendency to play his cue directly underneath his body instead of using the rest, which he often does when a frame is won. He is partially colour blind and has difficulty distinguishing between the red and brown balls, once even potting a brown ball believing it to be a red ball.
Williams is also a keen poker player. He is proud of his Welsh heritage, and has a tattoo depicting the Welsh Dragon eating the English flag. He is a keen Manchester United supporter. He and his wife Joanne have three sons: Connor (born April 2004), Kian (born 2007) and Joel (born 2013). Williams is good friends with Matthew Stevens and Stephen Hendry, as well as boxer Joe Calzaghe. Williams was awarded an MBE in June 2004.
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