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Hotshot Mark Allen is the master of his own destiny

By Luke Baker

Mark Allen stands on the brink of joining the legends of Ulster snooker.

Allen will join Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and Dennis Taylor as Ulster's only Triple Crown winners - Masters, World Championship and UK - if he triumphs at Alexandra Palace on Sunday night.

Higgins has won all three events - two World titles, two Masters and one UK - while Taylor has a World Championship and Masters to his name.

Allen has gone close in all three but the next few days could represent his best chance to finally hit the big target.

The Antrim potter's next hurdle is Barry Hawkins in the Masters quarter-finals tomorrow night.

Allen was impressive when beating defending champion Shaun Murphy 6-4 on Sunday and will start as favourite against Hawkins, who beat Joe Perry 6-3.

But the world number 11 - who turns 30 next month - is refusing to contemplate joining greats like Higgins and Taylor.

"I'm not a big target-setter - I try my best in every single match I play and every single tournament I play," he said.

"I'll look back at the end of my career knowing I gave everything, so whatever happens, happens - but it's nice to still be in the tournament and in with a chance of winning it.

"You have to treat each match as it comes. I know I've got good snooker in me and if I play my best then I'll be a tough game for anyone."

Allen reached the semi-finals of the £600,000 Masters last year, losing 6-2 to Murphy, so Sunday's victory was particularly sweet in a match that will always be remembered for a frame forfeit by the Englishman as a result of a bizarre triple miss when not snookered.

"Last year's match against Shaun wasn't really in my mind. It's something that has been and gone now and there's nothing I can do about it," he said.

"Last year I didn't play well at all, so I didn't deserve to be in the Masters final.

"Shaun showed how well he was playing by how comfortably he beat Neil Robertson in the final - not many people do that.

"I don't really look back too much on my matches because if I did, I would never beat Shaun as I have a terrible record against him!"

Allen took a break from the game over the festive period - he is a keen golfer and loyal Manchester United fan - and was surprised at how sharp he was against Murphy.

"I'm very happy with the way I played - I scored heavily, took my chances well and got over the line in the end," he said.

Allen had been in top form before Christmas, winning the Bulgarian Open and reaching the final of the Champion of Champions. But all that will pale into insignificance if he is crowned Masters champion on Sunday night.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, meanwhile, made a superb 62 break in the deciding frame to beat Mark Williams 6-5 in his first televised match since last year's World Championship.

"We both struggled at times and missed a lot," said O'Sullivan, who is suffering from a slipped disc in his lower back.

"I didn't feel nervous but it is a nightmare tournament. I only live a few miles away from here. It is mayhem and a circus.

"I played a few exhibitions over the summer and was playing well, but I hurt my back and now I can't get on the shot right.

"Maybe I'm just playing poorly but that seems to have coincided with the back problem. I don't feel balanced on the shot.

"I'm not able to rip into the ball the way I like to.

"If I keep playing like that then there's no point. I got away with it but I can't keep playing like that and expect to win. I got out of jail."

O'Sullivan is back in action tomorrow afternoon against Mark Selby who whitewashed Ricky Walden 6-0 last night.

Belfast Telegraph


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