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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
Williams takes centre stage
By Dan Warren
BBC Sport at The Crucible

No production at The Crucible theatre this year will serve more drama than the Embassy World Snooker Championship.

Mark Williams kisses the trophy
Williams played the best snooker in this year's tournament

Among a host of great stories, Ronnie's 147, Doherty's amazing comebacks and the controversy over bumpy tables stood out.

But ultimately, it was the brilliance of Mark Williams that really shone.

Despite his dramatic wobble in the final, the statistics bear out the fact that the best man won.

Williams dropped just 19 frames on his way to the final, set a new record by winning 13 frames in succession and became only the second man in history to regain the number one world ranking.

Yet it was not the numbers, but the quality of snooker which told the true story.

Quinten Hann's trademark recklessness was not responsible for turning his 2-0 second-round lead into a 13-2 drubbing. It was Williams' faultless snooker.

Ditto Stephen Hendry and Stephen Lee as the Welshman gave neither a sniff of a chance in his matches against them.

And so to the final - a classic encounter.

Williams, the man who looked too good to lose, against Doherty, the man who simply refused to lose.

The Irishman had demonstrated an ability for the Great Escape which would have shamed Steve McQueen.

Written off more times than an Essex boy racer's Escort, the fifth seed confounded the pundits with a resilience which bordered on the inhuman.

But even his powers of recovery could not pull back the 7-1 lead Williams built up in the first session.

Doherty pushed himself to the maximum - and it was talk of maximums which dominated the first week as well.

Chiefly O'Sullivan's brilliant 147 against Marco Fu - which was not enough to help the Englishman win.

Paul Hunter suffered at the hands of Doherty
Paul Hunter was the victim of another Doherty fightback

One must not underestimate Fu, who played extremely well in the tournament, but O'Sullivan's typically erratic display emphasised that he still has to deal with his demons if his phenomenal talent is to yield another world crown.

Another former champion, Peter Ebdon, emerged with more credit, despite falling victim to the curse of The Crucible which has prevented any first-time winner successfully defending their crown.

His gracious praise for Paul Hunter after the Yorkshireman's last-frame victory was in stark contrast to the pumped, yelling figure who won few friends two years ago when beating Stephen Lee.

Until he had the misfortune to play Doherty, Hunter raised hopes that he would be the first Yorkshire-born winner since 1986 with some fabulous snooker.

He fell short this year but did enough to suggest there could be more to come in future tournaments.

But this was Williams' tournament. His standard of play deserved the title - and now his opponents must work out how best to combat the resurgent Welshman.




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