By Hannah Blackwell
Mark Williams shook off the challenge of David Gilbert – and the attentions of a persistent wasp – to win his Masters first-round match 6-2 at Alexandra Palace.
The world No 7 began in ominous fashion, hitting back-to-back century breaks to start the match and adding a further run of 95 to lead 4-0 at the interval. Gilbert, handed a wild-card place after the suspension of Yan Bingtao, rallied on the resumption by winning the next two frames in succession.
Gilbert looked on course to cut the gap to 4-3 but missed a couple of golden chances in the next, allowing Williams to reassert control at 5-2. Again Gilbert rallied, taking a 63-point lead in the next frame with Williams chipping away at the deficit before the insect interloper sparked havoc.
Who knew a wasp could cause so much havoc at the snooker? 🐝🤣
At least we got to enjoy Mark Williams' dancing 🕺#CazooMasters | @WeAreWST | @markwil147 pic.twitter.com/5B5InrCrK3
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 10, 2023
The referee, Marcel Eckardt, briefly suspended the frame as both he and a flailing Williams tried in vain to remove it from the playing arena. The wasp briefly landed on a camera operator before flying back into the rafters, and Williams regrouped to clear the table, winning the frame after Gilbert had missed the yellow.
“I thought it was gonna sting my nuts at one stage!” joked Williams afterwards. It’s not the first time the so-called ‘Ally Pally Wasp’ has caused disruption – the insects made an appearance at December’s world darts championships, while snooker referee Ben Williams was stung by a wasp at the 2020 Masters.
Williams’ victory sets up a quarter-final with his fellow former champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan. “There’ll be two and a half thousand people here, about three of them wanting me to win!” the Welshman added.
Ronnie O’Sullivan will play Mark Williams in the Quarter Final of the Masters on Thursday at 1pm.
Who could forget the last time the pair played in what was a classic at the Tour Championship, the Rocket knocked in 5 centuries on his way to victory! 🚀#TheMasters pic.twitter.com/aRiWUZQPtb
— Ronnie O'Sullivan Tracker (@RonnieTracker) January 10, 2023
“But I’m playing well, and I’m not a pushover for anyone. It’s unbelievable how I’m still at the top of the game, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
In the afternoon match, Barry Hawkins whitewashed Mark Allen 6-0 to continue the former winner’s miserable recent run in the event.
Allen has not won a Masters match since lifting the title in 2018 and managed a high break of just 45 against fellow left-hander Hawkins, runner-up to Neil Robertson 12 months ago, who will face either Judd Trump or Ryan Day in the quarter-finals.