World champion Mark Williams is anticipating a decent tussle with Stephen Maguire in their UK Championship clash in York.
Veteran Williams’ bid to win snooker’s two biggest ranking titles in the same year gathered pace as he beat Noppon Saengkham 6-3 on Tuesday.
Williams turned the clock back late last season as he stormed to World Championship glory, defeating John Higgins in the Crucible final.
Having failed to reach the quarter-finals in four ranking events since he won the Yushan World Open in August, Williams now looks to be in good shape as he targets his first UK title since 2002.
“I played well, my form is getting better and I’m feeling more comfortable” said world number two Williams. “I’m still missing some easy balls here and there but apart from that my game is improving.”
2004 UK champion Maguire saw off Ali Carter 6-3 with top breaks of 62, 77, 73 and 77 to book his last-16 place against Williams. The Scot shown consistent form this season, reaching the semi-finals of the Riga Masters and English Open.
Williams was able to cast an eye over his clash with Carter and he had an interesting take on matters.
“I watched a bit of Stephen’s match on the next table,” the world champion added. “There was a lot of huffing and puffing, banging the cues and punching the tables, I was having a chuckle to myself.
“I’m assuming it will be the same when we play. Stephen is playing a lot better than he has done for a few years. But I’m not bothered who I play.”
Williams is favourite at 1.62 to overcome Maguire, who can be backed at 2.25 to progress.