Woollaston holds his nerve to reach maiden ranking final


Ben Woollaston. Picture by Monique Limbos

BEN WOOLLASTON enjoyed his biggest win of his career after a final frame thriller against Mark Williams saw him clinch a place in his first major ranking final.

The Leicester potter, ranked 36 in the world, defied the odds to beat the former world champion and Welshman Williams to set up a finale against John Higgins on Sunday.

The 27-year-old, whose biggest achievement as a professional was winning a PTC event in 2011, had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event. But he has now reached new heights and will look to finish off an impressive week with the Welsh Open title in his hands.

Woollaston settled immediately with a break of 82 to win the opening frame before making an excellent clearance which included a thumping green down the side cushion gave him a 2-0 lead.

Williams, who last won the Welsh Open in 1999 after beating Stephen Hendry in a final frame decider, took a scrappy third frame but Woollaston’s 75 made it 3-1 at the mid-session interval.

After the restart Williams hit a break of 88 to win frame five, and when Woollaston missed a tough penultimate red to a baulk corner in the sixth, the Welshman cleared to make it 3-3.

But Woollaston showed true grit as regained the lead with a superb break of 90, and took the next in two scoring visits for 5-3, putting him in pole position for his first final.

However he started to show signs of tension in the ninth, missing several pots as Williams halved the deficit.

The next frame appeared to be going in Woollaston’s favour after Williams failed to get out of an impossible snooker. From the chance that followed, Woollaston potted yellow and green but missed a tricky brown to a baulk corner before Williams cleared to force a final frame decider.

But Woollaston did not let the missed brown get to him as a cracking long red early in the decider set him up for a break of 30. He then missed a tricky mid-range to a top corner, but Williams immediately failed on a red to a centre pocket, and Woollaston seized his next chance with a run of 60.

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