Snooker: Williams brushes Davis aside

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MARK WILLIAMS, the world No 4, came to Wembley Conference Centre having won only three of his 10 matches this season. But yesterday he ended Steve Davis's promising defence of the Benson & Hedges Masters title with a 6-3 victory which guarantees him the best pay day of his career, pounds 75,000.

The 22-year-old Welshman will play the world No 1 Stephen Hendry today for the pounds 145,000 first prize following Hendry's 6-5 win over the world champion Ken Doherty. This high-quality encounter produced breaks of 131, 80 and 122 from Hendry and 73, 56, and 46 from Doherty as the Scot led 4-3. Runs of 60 and 57 helped Doherty dominate the next two frames but Hendry equalised at 5-5 after a highly tactical 40-minute frame and seized the decider with its initial score of 68.

Davis had won only two matches in the season's first four world ranking events. But he never stops working on his game. Having compared his action with Ronnie O'Sullivan's, he made a modification which revitalised his confidence. He played like an old master restored in beating O'Sullivan 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

He settled into a similar groove yesterday, taking the opening frame with a break of 84. Uncharacteristically, though, he mishit a safety and lost the second on the black. Having regained the lead at 2-1, he seemed certain to lead 3-1 but Williams, needing a snooker, trapped him behind the black to extract the necessary penalty points and then added the pink and black to level at 2-2. "I had a great chance to be 3-1 up," said Davis. "Sometimes when you let a big fish off the hook you only pull up old boots for the rest of the day. Mark gained momentum from there."

At 2-3, Davis made a break of 104, his 260th tournament century but this was an oasis of quality. Sustained control eluded Williams but runs of 32, 37 and 61 featured as he progressed from 3-3 to two up with three to play. Williams said: "I never felt under so much pressure in all my life. My heart was going. My head was going and my ass was going." But Davis's frailties were also exposed as he twice missed the pink which would have brought him to 4-5. It seemed as if neither player could win this 41-minute frame but Williams was blessed with one of the flukes of the season on the pink and cut black to middle for victory.