Mark Williams and Luca Brecel will face each other in the second round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Mark Williams
Like a few other top-eight seeds, it hasn’t been an especially strong campaign for Mark Williams.
The Welshman’s most fruitful week was at the Masters in January when he reached the final only to be narrowly denied by Judd Trump at the Alexandra Palace.
Other than that, there have been a few quarter-final runs in ranking events, with just one semi-final appearance to his name way back in August.
The three-time world champion’s failure to qualify for either Players Championship or the Tour Championship accurately reflects his indifferent form.
In saying that, Williams has performed strongly in Sheffield in the last few years, and it would be foolish to write off the 48 year-old entirely from challenging again.
This season for Luca Brecel
Brecel began the 2022/23 season in confident fashion, capturing a third ranking title at the campaign-opening Championship League.
A final appearance in the English Open followed not too long after, but since the turn of the year there has only been a single run to the last eight of a ranking event.
For much of the season, Brecel looked like qualifying for the lucrative Tour Championship that boasted just the top eight players from the one-year rankings list.
But he missed out on a spot in Hull after an unexpected loss to Haydon Pinhey in the first round of the WST Classic.
What happened in the first round?
On his sixth attempt, Brecel finally bagged his first victory at the Crucible Theatre with a 10-9 defeat of Ricky Walden.
Having already lost in two Crucible opening-round deciders, he did well to hold his nerve with a break of 84 after watching his opponent fight back from 9-6 behind.
For Williams, the champion in 2000, 2003, and 2018 looked to be in a spot of bother when he trailed Jimmy Robertson 5-4.
But last year’s semi-finalist dominated the second session of play, winning all six frames for a 10-5 success.
Mark Williams and Luca Brecel head-to-head
Williams and Brecel have faced each other on five occasions, and it makes for ominous reading for the former European amateur champion.
Brecel has lost on all five occasions he’s faced the Welsh Potting Machine, and the aggregate scoreline for the last four ties is 14-3 in the latter’s favour.
They haven’t encountered each other since 2020, however, with Brecel having become a more frequent presence at the business end of tournaments and a more reliable threat on the tour since then.
On his day he exudes brilliance, but when the balls aren’t flying in there are periods when Brecel can look a little amateurish.
This is the type of opponent that Williams thrives upon playing – highlighted by their head-to-head record – as he can dictate the play and pounce on any mistake made.
Brecel looked a relaxed figure after his first-round win, even admitting that he barely put in a minute’s practice ahead of his journey to Sheffield.
This kind of laid-back approach is something that has served Williams so well in the past. Indeed, he’s the master at it.
Prediction: Mark Williams 13-9 Luca Brecel
Thursday, April 20th – 1pm
Friday, April 21st – 10am and 7pm
Featured photo credit: WST