Mark Williams has won the 2018 World Open after an incredible 10-9 victory over David Gilbert in the final in Yushan on Sunday.
The world champion appeared resigned to the runners-up prize when he trailed Gilbert 9-5 but launched a remarkable comeback, his third in succession in the tournament, to deny the Englishman a maiden ranking title.
Gilbert, playing in only his second career ranking final at the age of 37, produced a terrific performance for the majority of the contest but just couldn’t pot the defining balls when it mattered the very most.
When Williams began his fight back, it was immediately apparent that the “Angry Farmer” was beginning to feel the pressure and he must have been thinking about his opponent’s previous heroics in the quarter and semi-finals when he reversed three-frame deficits against Jack Lisowski and Noppon Saengkham respectively.
By the time Gilbert missed a tricky blue along the cushion when in with an opportunity to clear the table and claim the trophy in the 17th frame, Williams had grasped a modicum of control and when he duly got back to within one frame at 9-8 down there really only appeared to be one outcome.
It was a sorry end to the day for Gilbert, who had turned in a wonderful and composed display up until the moment he moved to the brink of the triumph.
The former International Championship runner-up entered the arena with a casual smile on his face, apparently relaxed by the huge occasion, and duly took the opening frame for a lead he wouldn’t relinquish until the very last of the match.
Williams, quite clearly the second best player at the time, did well to stay in touch at the end of a thoroughly entertaining opening session that included a brilliant 142, the tournament’s joint highest break, from the challenger.
Gilbert subsequently dominated the initial exchanges as the evening’s bout of action got under way, clearing with a telling break of 68 before consecutive runs of 95 took him four frames in front.
With the next two frames shared, Gilbert gave himself all the chances in the world to land his first piece of silverware but, against one of the calmest competitors in the sport, he was unable to hold it together to land the killer punch.
With a hefty £75,000 cheque in his back pocket, the biggest of his career to date, it’s hardly been a bad week on the baize for Gilbert but he’ll fly back home with a lot of ifs and buts to consider.
Not only does he fail in his quest to join the illustrious band of ranking event champions, but a place in the lucrative upcoming Shanghai Masters also slips between his fingers – with Anthony McGill the grateful man who’ll instead gain an invitation to the revamped comp.
For Williams, it’s a fourth ranking title in under twelve months and brings his tally up to 22, continuing an amazing run of form that will see him rise back up to number two in the world rankings.
With Mark Selby defending almost a million pounds in ranking points during this campaign, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Williams could regain top spot for the first time in almost a decade later this term.
While his opponent was in control for most of the final showdown, there was never a case of writing off Williams and the three-time world champion ultimately demonstrated his class in the end.
Williams openly celebrated in excess his unexpected Crucible glory and there were many who predicted that he would begin this campaign slowly, recovering from the hangover of all hangovers.
Yet, it was simply business as usual and, while Williams admitted that he would be living off his Sheffield success for the rest of his life and would be happy to capture even one more title along the way, it didn’t take long for him to raise another trophy aloft.
Line up those beers as there’s another party in store.