Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Defeated Mark Allen has his eyes on big prizes

Mark Allen takes on Ricky Walden in York last night PA

Mark Allen will focus on what promises to be the most important year of his career after last night's 6-2 defeat to Ricky Walden in the quarter-finals of the UK Championship in York.

Allen, who turns 28 in February, contests the Masters next month at Alexandra Palace ahead of April's World Championship at the Crucible.

Despite last night's defeat in the £700,000 event, the Ulsterman is playing some of the best snooker of his life and will be determined to add the game's biggest prizes to his growing list of honours as soon as possible.

Allen reached the UK decider in 2011, losing what was his first ranking final 10-8 to Judd Trump, but has since twice won the World Open in China.

Allen and Walden shared the opening two frames, before the Chester potter surged ahead 3-1.

Walden was edging towards the finishing line, opening up a 4-2 advantage before winning the next to leave him needing just one frame for victory, which he duly secured.

Allen's closest call so far had come against Michael Holt in the last 32 when he won a dramatic deciding frame.

The Antrim cueman then beat former world number one Trump 6-4 and previously enjoyed straightforward assignments against Dave Harold and Jak Jones, winning 6-3 and 6-1.

But Walden eventually ended Allen's run with a determined display.

Stuart Bingham set up a semi-final showdown against Neil Robertson today with a surprise 6-4 win over world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, who was 'celebrating' his 38th birthday.

The enigmatic O'Sullivan was gracious in defeat.

"I want to congratulate Stuart, he played a fantastic match and he's had another brilliant tournament," he said.

"He's an in-form player, a seasoned player now, so you just have to congratulate him on a fantastic performance and I just wish him the best of luck for the rest of the tournament. It just shows the character of the guy, he's able to do it under pressure now so all credit to him, and good luck to him."

Robertson, who defeated Stephen Maguire 6-2, labelled the second table at the UK Championship "unplayable" and "absolute garbage" as he struggled with it for the second successive day.

The world number one was exiled from the main table in favour of O'Sullivan for both his last-16 clash with Joe Perry and the quarter-final showdown against Maguire.

And though he won 6-1 and 6-2 to reach the last four, he called for the table to be re-clothed overnight on Wednesday and was even more uncompromising last night.

"Once again the table's just absolute garbage, it's unplayable," said Robertson.

"Stephen was getting pretty angry with it himself. I'm just glad they're taking it out of the arena now and we're getting down to the one-table set-up and we'll be playing on the main TV table.

"It looks like it's been playing a lot better than that second table all week.

"It's hard to criticise either Stephen or myself for the balls we missed or some of the safety shots that were overhit by six feet.

"There's just nothing you can do about it when you play a safety shot and you've hit it perfectly fine, the white should bounce no more than (two to three inches) off the baulk cushion and it ends up bouncing back past the baulk line, three feet or so.

"I don't know any other sport where you get punished for things that aren't your fault.

"Maybe golf with the elements, wind and what have you, but they kind of know that's coming.

"You don't know when a bad bounce is coming.

"You can't really play around it, you just have to plug away and I've probably just handled the conditions a bit better than Stephen."

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