Snooker legends John Higgins and Mark Williams will contest today's final at the Crucible, bidding respectively for a fifth and third world title. Check out Paul Krishnamurty's preview...
"Williams is excellent value at [2.64]. He's been slightly superior this season yet is clear outsider. He's perhaps the only player on the planet with as good a temperament as Higgins...and will compete in the safety department."
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Snooker legends defy history and the ageing process
Throughout what has been a thoroughly entertaining season, we have seen one brilliant Asian kid emerge after another. Snooker is in great shape, more competitive than ever and the future is very bright. Who could have predicted in such an environment that it would ultimately be dominated by the same 'Holy Trinity' that first burst onto the scene 26 years ago?
Some might say the fact Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams are still winning tournaments - this one will make it nine between them this term - exposes the mediocrity of their rivals. Nonsense. Each of them has at some stage looked past it, finished or in their own words a 'has-been'. Like true champions, they fought back and, far from being on their last legs, are proving that age need not be a barrier in this sport.
Williams is second only to O'Sullivan this term
If Williams wins a third title, 15 years after the second, it will truly be a sporting fairytale. When he didn't qualify last year, many wondered whether he would ever grace the Crucible again. The Welshman has made a total mockery of such predictions. Only O'Sullivan, enjoying his own best year in ages, has been superior this season.
I've felt throughout that Williams and that recent form has been underestimated. There is nothing flukey whatsoever about it - he's produced it in virtually every event. Using SightRight has transformed his game and the Welshman is producing a standard equivalent to the world-beating level he showed around the turn of the century.
Higgins is less of a surprise as the four-time world champion only really had a bad couple of years and showed he still had the tools for this marathon event when reaching the final 12 months ago. The market understandably loves him after two impeccable matchplay performances in the last two rounds.
The Wizard of Wishaw was far from impressive in the balls during the semis. At times he looked shattered. Yet his safety play was so good it ensured that he usually got the first chance against Kyren Wilson (who did little wrong and still lost by four frames).
Is there a stamina doubt about Higgins?
Is there a chance he'll hit the wall in this two-day, best of 35 frame final? That seemed to be the case last year when Mark Selby won 14 of their last 19 frames. This is a big worry that deters me from backing Higgins at [1.6].
For me, Williams is excellent value at [2.64]. He's been slightly superior this season yet is clear outsider. He's perhaps the only player on the planet with a temperament to match Higgins - as Barry Hawkins found to his cost last night - and will compete a lot better than Wilson did in the safety department.
These two are barely separable over their careers, with Higgins leading 21-17, reflecting the fact that for a decade in the middle, he was vastly superior. With no significant form advantage, I'm expecting a war of attrition. A close match with long sessions, frayed nerves and plenty of scrappy frames. Under 24.5 Fifty Breaks appeals at 5/6.
Updated outright advice for those already on
Finally, an update for those following my in-play outright book. We are holding a 24 unit risk on Williams to return 47. Closing out this big risk would involve losing around four units but, given that I'm sticking with the tip, the plan is to run it for a while and decide in-play. Obviously if already on, today's recommended bet on Williams does not apply.
Stats after semi-finals:
Back Mark Williams 4u @ [2.64]
Back Under 24.5 Fifty Breaks 4u @ 5/6
Outright already advised
10u loss Barry Hawkins
4u loss Mark Allen
5u loss Kyren Wilson
Back Mark Williams 5u @ [9.4]