Potters trio aim to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan at his own Premier League game
Potters goes snooker loopy this weekend as a quartet of the world's top players head for Hopton-on-Sea for the Premier League play-offs.
Former world number one Mark Williams, Chinese star Ding Junhui, nine-times Premier League champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and 2011 World Championship finalist Judd Trump will take to the baize for Saturday's first to five frames semi-finals, hoping for a place in Sunday evening's best of 13 final�.
And for two-times world champion Williams, the long trip from Wales is far from a burden.
At one time the Ebbw Vale star dominated the game, topping the world in 2000 and 2003. Despite a barren spell since, the 36-year-old appears to be back on form this season with final appearances at the Australian Open and Shanghai Masters.
And next up is the chance to shine in Norfolk.
'I'm looking forward to it really; I haven't got to the semis of the Premier League for a while and I hadn't been in it for a while either,' said Williams, currently number two in the world and a beaten Premier League finalist in 2000, 2003 and 2005. 'It's one of the best tournaments to play in at the minute, one of the big ones.'
That last defeat came at the hands of this year's defending champion O'Sullivan, who will be gunning for a incredible 10th Premier League final at Potters.
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And it will be O'Sullivan standing in the way of Williams and a third final this season.
'In a big crowd it's obviously a lot of better – and then every time you play Ronnie you get that, with most of them on his side,' said Williams.
'We've all got to beat Ronnie; the whole set-up is perfect for his game and that's why he has won it for so many years. He hasn't got to rush around the table for 20 seconds every shot and that is the main reason he wins it year in, year out.
'At the end of the day, I know the rankings say Ronnie is down in 14th but I think we'd all agree the rankings do lie on this occasion, because he is the best player in the world as far as I'm concerned – and in my opinion by a country mile.
'When he's on form there is no one in the same league him. Everyone can beat him, but I'm just saying he is the best and the fact he hasn't played in all the tournaments is why he's down there. If he played in all of them he'd soon be back up there.'
It will be a big task for Williams – and everyone else – to beat O'Sullivan this weekend, the Rocket winning six of the last seven Premier League finals. But at least Williams heads to Norfolk in good form.
'It's nice to be in the semi-final and I've had a good start to the year…probably one of the better starts I've had and hopefully I can keep my run going and just go and enjoy it,' added the Welshman.
'My current form is good. If someone had said to me two years ago I'd have been number one in the world – I've dropped down to two at the minute, which I don't mind at all – I would have laughed at them really.
'To get back there, win a couple of tournaments and lose in a couple of finals, it's something I would have thought I might never do again.
'But somehow I got back there and just tried to compete and hopefully I can go on for as many years as I can. I'm not getting any younger.
'I'm always fiddling about with my game and my actions and stuff, and just plodding along really. Trying to change things is something you've got to do to try to compete – and I'm plodding along OK at the moment.'
Having beaten Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter, Matthew Stephens and Jimmy White to Potters, Williams and O'Sullivan meet under this season's reduced 20-second shot clock after Ding and Trump take to the 1,000-seater International Arena for the opening semi.
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