Let them boo! Williams is happy to be cast as the villain as Crucible crowd heckle
23:25 GMT, 25 April 2012
Targeted: Williams steps out to jeers
Mark Williams was greeted by a chorus of boos as he stepped out to begin his first-round match in the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship against China's Liu Chuang.
Around a quarter of the 980 spectators made plain their feelings at Williams's pre-tournament tweet that he hates the Sheffield arena and is anxious that the World Championship decamps to the Far East as soon as possible.
The Crucible Theatre is associated more with hushed reverence than outright revolt yet the Welshman discovered that his foul-mouthed criticism of the hallowed venue did not sit kindly with the sport's devoted followers. As Barry Hearn has learned, you mess with snooker tradition at your peril.
Williams raised an eyebrow and appeared suitably chastened as he made his way to his seat. Whether it was lingering embarrassment or simply first-round nerves, the two-time world champion began fitfully against his 21-year-old opponent before finally settling to stretch out a 6-3 lead going into the concluding session.
In truth, the dissent quickly dissipated and by the time a lady ambled down the steps to offer Williams a bag of chocolates while he waited for Chuang to return to the arena, it appeared he had been forgiven.
Williams said: 'There were some boos but I was expecting that to be honest. But after the beginning, when they made their point, it was fine. They pay their money so they have a right to boo and cheer whoever they want.
'I have always got on very well with the Sheffield crowd and they clapped and cheered good shots so it didn't bother me at all. It was certainly nice to finish with a century (a 111 break). Whether it's all done and dusted, I suppose we'll find out tomorrow.'
On the other table, Judd Trump's dodgy stomach overcame Dominic Dale's swollen right hand in a tussle in which off colour referred more to each player's health than their positional sense.
Flamboyance is Trump's default setting under normal Crucible circumstances. Then again, there was nothing normal about the food poisoning which made him violently ill, weak and able to eat only small quantities of bread and soup since Monday evening.
At the table: Williams in action against China's Liu Chuang at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield
Last year's beaten finalist was left to eke out a 10-7 victory which exemplified his determination even if it did little to advertise the attacking flair that will surely re-surface in subsequent matches. A dodgy helping of chicken was to blame for his illness and left him on the verge of withdrawing.
Trump said: 'It's the closest I've ever been to pulling out of a professional tournament. I maybe wouldn't have played if it had been a smaller event than the World Championship but I knew I just had to get through.
'I started feeling ill an hour after I ate on Monday evening. Then I woke up sweating in the middle of the night and I was being sick in the morning until about half past nine (his match began at 10am).
'I feel tired now. I haven't eaten properly for two days. I've got a couple of days off now so I'll lie in bed tomorrow and hopefully get better for Friday.'
At least Trump's food poisoning was a one-off. Dale has been afflicted for a number of years by carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve problem in the wrist which causes pain and swelling in the hand.
Opening skirmishes: 21-year-old Liu Chuang handed former champpion Williams an early test
The final medical bulletin of the day was issued in the evening session when a bulging muscle in his neck proved too painful for world No 1 Mark Selby as he lost 10-3 to Barry Hawkins.
For Ding Junhui, whose dismal Crucible record continued when he lost 10-9 to Ryan Day from 9-6 ahead, the excuse was less physical, more psychological as he allowed fervent Welsh support to cheer Day to an unlikely victory.
While there was no impropriety and certainly no calling out as Ding addressed the cue ball, he struck back verbally in what is becoming a war of words between snooker's old and new worlds.
Ding said: 'It was all rubbish. I don't think I played well. I don't think the table's right. I don't think the fans are right. All rubbish. Rubbish fans. I was concentrating on the game and they kept shouting out. How can they do that
'People say that Chinese fans are no good. OK, but then I come here and what do they do No, they were not fair.'