Snooker: Williams' Shanghai anger

MARK WILLIAMS branded conditions in the China International tournament "a disgrace to snooker" after his hopes of an Asian double were ended by fellow Welshman Paul Davies yesterday. Williams, winner of the Thailand Masters four days earlier, was scathing about the table and the room used for the tournament at the JC Mandarin Hotel in Shanghai.

Forced to play in a small outside arena due to local Chinese television electing to broadcast the Alan McManus v Mark King match, Williams made his feelings plain. "The table and the room were a disgrace for professional snooker," he moaned. "I can't wait to get out of this place.

"It was the same at the Scottish Open in Aberdeen. The outside table set-up was terrible there as well and something needs to be done. It doesn't make you want to play. Mind you, Paul played really well and towards the end he hammered me. I think he could give John Higgins a fight in the quarter-finals."

Williams moved smoothly into a 2-0 lead with breaks of 53 and 48 and looked capable of repeating his 5-0 first-round whitewash of Dominic Dale. The turning point arrived in the third frame. Having opened the scoring with a 58 break, Williams missed a black off its spot and Davies produced a 67 clearance to steal it. The world No 41 then made breaks of 68, 50, 51 and 42 to dominate the next four frames and record the biggest surprise of the tournament so far.

"The clearance in the third gave me the boost I needed and my form kicked in," Davies said. "I knew this kind of victory was coming because I have been playing so well in practice. It was just a matter of when."

Stephen Hendry returned to his best during a 5-2 quarter-final victory over John Parrott. "That's probably my best performance of the season," declared the six-times world champion, who only squeezed past Steve Davis 5-4 on the black in the previous round. "When you scrape through a match you should by rights have lost it always tends to relax you and that's how I felt out there," added Hendry.

His level of relaxation and focus was apparent from the outset as he prevented Parrott potting a single ball in the opening two frames. The experienced Liverpudlian took the third with a break of 63 and opened the scoring with 51 in the fourth before Hendry rolled in a long red to launch the 87 clearance which gave him a 3-1 lead.

Parrott won a scrappy fifth frame but did not take another point as Hendry impressively whipped through the next two frames in only 18 minutes with breaks of 107, 46 and 30.

"It was very encouraging, because I can't remember missing an important pot from distance apart from one when a TV cameraman put me off by moving. I just hope I can keep this momentum going," added Hendry.

Next up for Hendry, who is bidding to capture his fourth title of the season, will be Billy Snaddon, his practice partner at Spencers Snooker Centre in Stirling for the past eight years.

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