Mark Williams says he ‘couldn’t be more confident’ as he prepares to write the latest chapter in a storied Crucible rivalry with fellow Class of 92 graduate John Higgins.
The masters of the baize have met four times at the home of snooker before, most recently in a 2018 final which ended with Williams lifting his third world title.
The 46-year-old also downed the Scot on his way to glory in 2000, mounting a comeback from 14-10 down in the last four, and set up the latest clash between the pair – which begins on Friday afternoon – by powering past World Championship debutant Sam Craigie 10-4 in the first round in Sheffield.
“I’ve been playing him (Higgins) for 30-odd years now, it must be one of the longest rivalries in any sport,” Williams said.
“I get a bit embarrassed about the Class of 92 thing. Ronnie (O’Sullivan) and John are in a different league to me, I’m embarrassed to be mentioned in the same breath as them.
“After Ronnie, John is the second-best player that’s ever lived, there’s no question in my eyes.
“To still be competing with him after all these years is unbelievable and I couldn’t be any more confident.
“I’ve been playing well for a while and I’m looking forward to it. Playing him over three sessions, it doesn’t get any better than that for me.”
Williams lost the first two frames against Tyneside potter Craigie but hit back to win the next four and ended the afternoon session with a slender 5-4 lead.
The Cwm ace pulled clear in the evening session, winning five straight frames, and saved his best until last by sealing the match with a break of 94 to book his place in the last 16.
“I enjoyed it all the way through and I played some good stuff, like I have for a few months now,” he said.
“I can beat anybody, no question, but I’m not going to lie about how much I’m practicing. I’m doing one or two hours a day maximum, which keeps me ticking over.
“That’s enough for me to play to a decent standard. Not brilliant, but decent.
“I don’t worry about doubters anyway but if I ever had any, that last World Championship win must have silenced them.
“I have nothing left to prove, it’s just enjoyment for me now and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The more I’m enjoying it, the better I seem to be playing.”
Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3