Williams looking to extend top-level playing career after world title success

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World champion Mark Williams is confident he can play at the highest level for years to come after wife Jo gave him the kick up the backside he needed to save his career.

The 43-year-old became the oldest Crucible winner since his fellow Welshman Ray Reardon in 1978 by staving off a fightback from John Higgins on Monday night.

He then stripped off to make good on a mid-tournament pledge that he would go naked for his press conference if he landed the title, which he never thought likely.

“I’ve never breathed in for so long in my life sitting up there,” Williams said moments later, relieved to be back in his snooker outfit.

The 18-16 win makes Williams a three-time champion, following his 2000 and 2003 successes in Sheffield. He missed a pink for the match when 17-15 ahead but held his nerve in the next frame to finish off Higgins.

Ronnie O’Sullivan intends to play until at least the age of 50, and Williams believes he too can remain in the game for just as long after banishing thoughts of retirement.

“I didn’t think so but the way things are going, yeah. Playing the way I’m playing, who knows how long I can go on for?” he said.

“I was quitting 12 months ago in my head. I probably shouldn’t be winning these tournaments at 43 but I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Asked what gave him the edge over pretenders to Betfred World Championship glory such as Judd Trump and Ding Junhui, neither of whom have yet landed the title, Williams was typically blunt.

“Bottle really, big balls I suppose when the pressure’s on,” he said. “Look at the pink I missed to win the match – who else would then make the break I did to win the championship? Maybe John Higgins, I’d say, but he’s probably the only one.

“Would Stephen Hendry or Ronnie O’Sullivan have done that? I don’t think so.”

Wife Jo joined Williams in celebrating his success, and the champion thanked her for telling him to buck up his ideas when he was considering quitting snooker last summer.

“In a nutshell she said she couldn’t really spend 24 hours a day with me,” Williams said.

“She’s used to me being away for weeks on end and she said, ‘I can’t stick 24 hours a day with you because you’ll just get bored’.

“And if I’m looking at it now, she’d be right. I did want to give up, I’d totally had enough, and she basically kicked me up the a*** and told me to carry on, because what else am I going to do?”

The Williams family own a luxury caravan in Burnham-on-Sea, and it was to the Somerset town that the snooker star retreated to drown his sorrows 12 months ago after failing to qualify for the 2017 World Championship.

Despite pocketing £425,000 for his unexpected success, Williams is not planning a bigger holiday home.

“It’s massive anyway,” he said. “It’s got four bedrooms and I think it’s bigger than the first house I bought.

“I love it down there and next weekend I’m going to go down there and have a few beers – this time I’ve actually won the tournament rather than watched it on TV.”

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