John Higgins and Mark Williams look forward to ‘renewing old rivalries’


Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Seven

John Higgins and Mark Williams are set for yet another clash this week in the Northern Ireland Open (Picture: Getty Images)

John Higgins and Mark Williams will lock horns yet again at the Northern Ireland Open on Thursday with the two old rivals looking in fine form in Belfast.

Higgins was in sensational nick as he beat Luca Brecel 4-2 on Wednesday afternoon, knocking in breaks of 121, 113 and 105 along the way.

Williams was not looking too shabby himself as he bounced back from two frames behind to beak Jak Jones 4-2 with efforts of 102, 100, 72 and 53.

With 62 previous meetings, according to Cuetracker, they know all about what the other will bring to the table and Higgins is expecting a tough contest, despite feeling bad for his old foe.

The Welshman has been struggling with gout, and although he appears to be getting over it now, the Scot has sympathy for him.

‘Listen, we’ve grew up together, he’s been my nemesis a lot of my matches as well over the years, but a brilliant player,’ Higgins told Eurosport after beating Brecel.

World Snooker Championship - Day Sixteen

Williams beat Higgins in one of the all-time great World Championship finals in 2018 (Picture: Getty Images)

‘He’s obviously suffering with gout, a mate, an old snooker player, Davy McLellan suffers with gout and says it’s the most painful thing he’s had in his life.

‘I can only imagine what Mark’s going through, but he’s still wily enough that it doesn’t matter, he can still win the tournament playing with gout.

‘Playing Mark will be so tough, whether he’s got gout or not, he’s such a great player. It’ll be renewing old rivalries I suppose.’

Williams has played down his gout troubles now, saying he is over the worst, but is expecting to have to deal with the Wizard of Wishaw coming out all guns blazing.

Their last two meetings in major tournaments have come at the World Championship, with Williams winning them both, and he reckons Higgins will want revenge.

‘The gout is much better now, I can almost walk like normal,’ the three-time world champion told WST. ‘Every time me and John play it is great. I’m sure he will be trying to get one over on me, because I’ve beaten him the last couple of times. Each time I play him is good.’

After his second round win over Elliott Slessor, when the pain was much worse, Williams addressed his gout issue, explaining: ‘It must be difficult for my opponents as well. They can see me hopping around the table. I can’t get to easy shots. I can’t put any pressure on it. If I land wrong side on the black or the blue, I can’t play them.

‘I tried my best, like I do every time. Even at 3-2 up though, I didn’t want to be out there. It started to throb again, that had stopped. I was on it for quite a few hours yesterday and nearly four hours there. I’d had enough.

‘I was very close to not coming. I went to bed last Monday fine and I woke up on Tuesday screaming in pain. I couldn’t put my foot down. The first time my foot touched the ground was on Saturday night and that was when I booked my flight.’

Higgins and Williams meet in the afternoon session on Thursday afternoon at the Waterfront Hall.

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