Mark Williams was born on the 21st of March, 1975, in the Welsh town of Cwm in Ebbw Vale. To date, he has won 16 ranking tournaments, placing him at number five on the all-time list of trophy winners. He is also the only left-handed player to have ever won the World Championship.
Boxing, tattoos and patriotism
Williams was always destined to become a snooker player, despite a love for boxing. This passion may seem bizarre, since he is now regarded as the calm and composed ‘Welsh Potting Wizard’.
Williams is fiercely patriotic, and proudly shows off his large tattoo of the Welsh dragon eating the English flag. However, it is his skill on the table which strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents, no matter which nationality they happen to be.
His laid-back and relaxed attitude often changes when he reaches the snooker table. Suddenly, Williams will typically adopt a very serious expression as he focuses entirely on getting the balls in the pockets. He is also known for displaying some curiously effective techniques, such as his tendency to play the cue underneath his body as opposed to using the rest.
Williams secured his first ranking win in January 1996, when he beat Stephen Hendry (a good friend of his), in the Welsh Open title. He suffered a poor World Cup campaign, but later went on to win the first ranking event of the new season, the Grand Prix, in October of that same year.
These two high-profile wins ensured that he was gaining more attention in the world of snooker, and the Welshman was destined to go from strength to strength.
Stephen Hendry was once again in the firing line when Williams went on to take his first Masters title in 1998, in a game which went right down to the final black. This triumph gave him a massive confidence boost at the start of the 1999/2000 season, which would turn out to be the best year of his playing career so far.
A good year
The year started off with a victory in the UK Championship and culminated in a triumphant World Championship. Along the way, Williams took a further ranking title, as well as three runner-up positions. He ended the season as World Number One, a fantastic achievement so early in his career.
Williams emerged as the player to beat during the following three seasons. He seemed to go from strength to strength, and held on to his number one spot for the entirety of the three years.
A better year
The 2002/2003 season saw Williams surpass his successful 1999/2000 season, as he won the UK Championship, the Masters title, and a second World Championship. Williams became only the fourth player in history to hold the titles at the same time. He also became only the third player in history to hold all the titles in the same season. His position as the best snooker player in the world was now apparent.
This season was the pinnacle of Williams’ achievements. The 2004/2005 season was a forgettable one, and a series of poor performances meant that by the beginning of the next season, he had dropped down to number 9 in the world rankings.
However, there were some moments of magic left in his game. On the 20th of April, 2005, during the World Championship, Williams managed a 147 break. This made him the first ever Welshman, and only the 5th player in history, to get a 147 break at the most prestigious tournament in the sport.
He failed to win any important titles, though, and had to wait until March 2006 before winning his first ranking event for two and a half years, the China Open in Beijing. Fortunately for Williams, this victory sent him back into the top eight.
In April 2006, Williams split with his long-term coach, Terry Griffiths, hoping that a change in coaching staff would improve his world ranking. However, even though he went on to win the Pot Black trophy in September by beating John Higgins, the following season was, without a doubt, the worst of his career. Although Williams managed to finish in the top 16, his form was declining drastically.
He began the following season in 12th place in the official rankings, but did not even appear in the top 32 on the provisional list.
Recently, there have been promising signs that Williams could be returning to top form. He reached the quarter-final of the Maplin UK Championship, before going out to Stephen Maguire.
Williams will always be remembered as a great snooker player, and it would seem extremely rash to write him off just yet. Furthermore, he recently got back together with coach, Terry Griffiths, and the re-formed partnership is working well.
He is still regarded as one of the greatest long potters that the game has ever seen. With 204 centuries to his name, he will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.