Mark Williams and Michael White will face each other in the first round of the World Championship in Sheffield.
Mark Williams’ season so far
The 2021/22 season has been a little up and down for Williams, who turned 47 last month – yes, 47.
The Welshman began the campaign in stellar fashion, capturing a 24th ranking title with success in the revamped British Open.
Williams also reached the final of the single-frame Shoot Out only to be denied another tournament triumph by Hossein Vafaei.
At the Masters in London, the former world number one looked set to reach the title decider but threw away a 5-3 lead and lost to eventual champion Neil Robertson in the last four.
Williams boasts three world titles, the last of which coming four years ago after a memorable defeat of old rival John Higgins in the final.
There have been two quarter-final appearances since then, and Williams might be quietly confident of going further than that in 2022 given his rather open section of the draw.
Michael White’s season so far
Michael White became only the second amateur to qualify for the venue stages of the World Championship after winning all four of his qualifying matches last week.
The 30 year-old’s recent amateur status has generally been met with bafflement anyway, given his pedigree at the top of the game.
That will all be sorted thanks to his performances in Sheffield this year, with a Main Tour card already guaranteed for the upcoming campaign.
Even though he was an amateur this season, White played in almost everything as an invited top-up, but he failed to go beyond the last 32 of any event.
This is the fourth time White will compete at the Crucible, coming nine years after his debut when he reached the quarter-finals.
There’s some added spice in this fixture as an all-Welsh affair, and White actually holds the superior head-to-head record from their prior battles.
In eight earlier encounters, the younger of the pair has won on five occasions, but Williams prevailed the last time they met in the 2021 Welsh Open.
Interestingly, they crossed paths at this same stage of the World Championship in 2013, when White caused an upset by winning 10-6.
White is a dangerous player, and it’s right for both him and the game in general that he’ll be back competing as a proper professional again next season.
Coming through four preliminary matches will mean that he’s nicely warmed up for any tests that lie ahead in this championship.
However, Williams is in a good quarter of the draw and could become a genuine threat if he can get his 2022 campaign in Sheffield off to a solid start.
Prediction: Mark Williams 10-8 Michael White
Sunday, April 17th – 2:30pm
Monday, April 18th – 2:30pm
Featured photo credit: WST