Mark Williams' World Open win proves mental resilience is the difference between 'good' and 'great' in snooker

The Welshman picked up his 22nd ranking title but it was not an easy week in China.

Mark Williams' World Open win proves mental resilience is the difference between 'good' and 'great' in snooker
The man on the left won but the challenger on the right probably should have been successful (photo: Getty Images / Tai Chengzhe)

Mark Williams winning the World Open is not a surprising headline - but it could have been a completely different story if some of the lower ranked players had taken their chances in the second ranking event of the season.

Saengkham proves his quality as Lisowski impresses again

Jack Lisowski had been the standout performer in the 2018-19 curtain-raiser, just falling short in the Riga Masters final to Neil Robertson. Yet the number 23 seed was once again part of a band of players from outside the top 16 who produced impressive displays in China this week.

Lisowski thrashed Mark Allen and saw off Kyren Wilson on his way to the last eight before being halted by the eventual champion. He was joined in the quarter-finals by Gary Wilson, who ended Judd Trump's hopes in the second round, whilst Robert Milkins defeated reigning champion Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson was dumped out by Ricky Walden. 

Yet arguably the most impressive display belonged to Thai hotshot Noppon Saengkham. The number 46 seed defeated Ryan Day, Xiao Guodong and Mark Selby, the latter on the final black, and should have progressed past his second ranking semi-final against Williams.

Williams flirts with an exit but proves too strong

Saengkham found himself 5-2 ahead against the world champion, just one frame away from a shot at his first ever title. Yet Williams did not panic and utilised his 26 years of experience to manufacture an almighty comeback - the Welshman dropped just three points in the next three frames as he drew level before squeezing over the line in the decider.

It was not the first time Williams had recorded such a feat during the week. He went 3-0 down to Lisowski before storming back to win 5-3, again proving experience is key as Fergal O'Brien did in the second round when he recovered from 4-0 behind to defeat top 16 player Luca Brecel.

Yet Williams was greeted in the final by a man at the top of his game despite only being seeded 24th. David Gilbert had followed a withdrawal in the opening round with victories over Ali Carter, Walden, Fu and Barry Hawkins, all excellent snooker players.

The pair squabbled over the lead as they shared a century apiece and ended the first session with Gilbert holding a 5-4 lead. Yet the outsider returned to the table with determination and shot into a 9-5 advantage with another five opportunities to win the title - Williams perhaps distracted during the break by a social media argument involving an abusive tweet aimed at Hawkins. However, Williams was able to reassess again and complete a hat-trick of astonishing comebacks as he won the last five frames to run out victorious at 10-9.

It is another chapter in a familiar snooker story - every competition witnesses a host of shock scorelines but when it comes down to the biggest games, the top 16 players seem to have the resilience to see them over the line in the high pressure hotbeds.