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Allen keeps China in hand

By Frank Brownlow

For a man who has had an uneasy relationship with all things China in the past, the country doesn't half bring out the best in Mark Allen.

The Ulsterman yesterday successfully defended his Haikou World Open title in Hainan, beating Matthew Stevens 10-4 and collecting a cheque for £85,000.

Allen has made no secret of his dislike of travelling and being away from home, and he revealed that the celebrations will be put on hold until he gets back to Antrim.

"When I get home – after about 33 hours of travelling – there will be a party with friends and family," said Allen, adding that he was very happy with the facilities and food at the event, something that has concerned him in the past.

Allen is the first player to retain a ranking title since John Higgins – who fell to the defending champion in the semi-finals – triumphed in the Welsh Open in 2010 and 2011.

Allen's second ranking triumph followed on from victory in the 2009 Jiangsu Classic, which is also staged in China and was at that time a non-ranking event.

The 27-year-old, now up to number seven in the world, never looked back after winning the first four frames. By the end of the first session he was 6-3 in front with a best effort of 100.

Allen kept up the pressure and rounded off victory with a 69 in the 14th frame.

"I'm very happy to win and retain my title. To win the same tournament two years in a row is a great achievement," he said.

"The snooker wasn't as good as I had hoped. I didn't get into a rhythm and I didn't score heavily," he admitted. "The balls were awkward and a lot of the frames were scrappy. But I fought hard and won some close frames which were very important.

"I'm proud of myself for the way I handled it, considering it wasn't my style of match.

"I like to get the balls open and make breaks and entertain the crowd, but sometimes you can't do that," he explained.

"The scoreline was flattering, it wasn't as one-sided as that. But the result is all that matters.

"My form has been good for the last few months so I'm relieved, more than anything, to finally get a win," he said.

"Hopefully I can push on now and win more," he added.

"If I can do well at the PTC Grand Finals and the China Open then it will give me a lot of confidence going into the World Championship."

Allen will now be among the favourites for the world title which starts at the Crucible next month, with the return of Ronnie O'Sullivan making it one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments ever.

Stevens, who had to battle through the first two rounds of the tournament with a borrowed cue after his own was delayed in transit, was generous in defeat.

"Mark's safety was a lot better than mine and he did the job, so well done to him," commented the Welshman.

"It's always disappointing to lose in finals, but it's still been a good week for me, especially after losing my cue.

"I've earned a lot of ranking points and I know I'm safe in the top 16."

Belfast Telegraph


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