TWICE winner Mark Williams once again leads Gwent hopes at this week’s Welsh Open, but there are another five of the region’s snooker aces also hoping for success on home soil.

Cwm’s Williams will be one of the favourites to go all the way in Cardiff having already claimed two ranking titles – the Northern Ireland Open and German Masters – this season.

The 42-year-old has high hopes of adding to his 1996 and 1999 triumphs, while he is targeting a third world crown this spring too.

“I’m going into the World Championship this year with more confidence than I have had in the last 10 years,” he said.

“I could still go out in the first round, that is just the nature of the game, but I’m feeling much better about the way I’m playing than I have for a long time.”

Williams kicks off his Motorpoint Arena campaign on Tuesday afternoon against the hugely experienced Mark King.

Earlier in the day, Cwmbran’s Jak Jones, who has lost in the first round of the event three years in a row, take on China’s Mei Xiwen.

Tuesday could also see veteran Darren Morgan in action against David Grace, but that depends if the Newbridge amateur wins this morning.

Former pro Morgan, 51, picked up one of two wildcards by winning the Robert Harrhy Memorial tournament in Cwmbran.

Morgan’s last Welsh Open appearance came in 2000, eight years after he lost the event’s first ever final.

This time he opens up with a preliminary round match against fellow wildcard Rhydian Richards – the victor plays Englishman Grace a day later.

“Getting to the Welsh Open is massive for me because it was 12 years ago that I last played in the qualifiers,” said Morgan.

“No-one is expecting me to do anything. It was the same at the Riga Masters two years ago and I reached the semi-finals, so you never know what can happen.”

Also today, Ebbw Vale teenager Jackson Page, who stunned everyone by reaching the third round 12 months ago, plays England’s Sean O’Sullivan.

Newbridge potter Lee Walker went further than any Welshman at the tournament in 2017 and he is involved in an all-Welsh first round showdown with Daniel Wells this time.

Finally, Ian Preece, from Newport, could have his work cut out against Chinese star Zhao Xintong.

The tournament, sponsored by ManBetX, runs from today to Sunday.