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Cazoo World Snooker Championships: Preview

Mark Williams will hope some early nights, healthy food and a few rounds of golf have put him in good shape to bid for a fourth World Snooker Championship title in Sheffield this weekend.

The Welsh three-time former world champion complained of tiredness and feeling jaded after he crashed out of the Welsh Open in the second round to compatriot Jak Jones in February.

Williams vowed to get some more kip, improve his diet, and feel some air in his lungs on the golf course in order to feel more focused come night-time sessions in major tournaments.

Those pledges will all be put to the test on Sunday at the Crucible when the 48-year-old plays Jimmy Robertson in round one.

Williams is currently priced at around 18/1 to win the world title, but will be heavy favourite to overcome Englishman Robertson, the world-ranked No.27.

Williams made the Masters final back in January before losing to Judd Trump and declaring that he still felt he could give the younger players in the game a run for their money.

But the players most likely to trouble Williams in his bid to become world champion again for the first time since 2018 are hardly in the first flush of youth.

Defending champion and tournament favorite Ronnie O’Sullivan is only a year younger than Williams at 47, second favourite Judd Trump is 33, while Mark Selby (third favourite) is 39 and Neil Robertson (fourth favourite) is 41.

Completing the most fancied top five among the field of 32 players, Shaun Murphy, is also just past his 40th birthday – meaning only Trump is not within the Williams generation.

Williams may have complained of fatigue at the Welsh Open, but he has not had a bad season, all-in-all.

As well as finishing runner-up to Trump in the Masters final – after knocking out O’Sullivan in a brilliant semi-final – he has reached the semi-finals of the European Masters and the quarter-finals of three other ranking tournaments.

The cueman from Cwm equalled Hendry’s record of 16 centuries during a single Crucible campaign last year and came within a frame of reaching another world final, losing 17-16 to Trump in the semis.

O’Sullivan begins his quest for an eighth world title against China’s debutant Pang Junxu, four-time champion Selby takes on 2019 Indian Open champion Matthew Selt, runner-up last year Trump faces Scottish qualifier Anthony McGill and Robertson goes head-to-head against the 19-year-old Chinese star Wu Yize.

Jones, from Cwmbran, will be making his debut at the Crucible at the age of 29. He clinched his place by beating Barry Hawkins in the final qualifying round and said afterwards, “It’s not easy to qualify. Everyone is under so much pressure, it’s totally different to any other tournament.”

Jones will start up against two-time finalist Ali Carter and be a big underdog, while the third Welshman to make it through to the opening 32, Ryan Day, will also be an outsider in his battle to get past 2020 finalist Kyren Wilson.

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