Snooker: Double delight as Williams foils Hendry

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MARK WILLIAMS was crowned Welsh Open champion for the second time after clinching a nerve-wracking 9-8 win over stablemate Stephen Hendry in Cardiff last night.

The match did not go down to a re-spotted black finish as it had done when the pair met in last season's B & H Masters final at Wembley - but it did reach the pink in the final frame.

And Scotsman Hendry knew how close he came to gaining revenge for that defeat last February. Having been thrown a lifeline when Williams squandered two opportunities to clinch the match 9-7, Hendry was back in control in the decider. Unfortunately he failed to sink a moderately easy pink into a centre pocket and Williams came back to the table to seal victory with a 23 break.

It was hardly the Welshman's biggest break of a classic confrontation that enthralled a 1,500 sell-out crowd at the Cardiff International Arena, but it was certainly valuable, earning him pounds 60,000 while Hendry was left with pounds 32,000 as consolation.

"When it went to the last frame it could have gone either way," said the world No 5, succeeding Paul Hunter and becoming the only seventh professional to claim back-to-back ranking titles to follow last month's Irish Open. "I started off well enough in that last frame but twitched a pink in the middle which gave Stephen another chance. Had he been playing at his best I am sure he would have beaten me. But he made more mistakes than he used to and it gave me a chance to get another one over him. The support was tremendous tonight and you only had to hear the roar at the start. They probably helped me through it at the end."

Three times Hendry went two frames in front, helped by breaks of 57, 67, 56 and 116. But each time Williams stuck to his task and came back to lead 8-7 helped by his first century of the tournament in frame 15.

"The balls I missed in the last frame I never used to miss," Hendry said. "I will have to start potting them if I want to start winning titles again. Mark is a tough player to beat."