Mark Allen was full of praise for tournament debutant Jamie Clarke after falling victim to the biggest shock of this year’s World Snooker Championship.
The Northern Irishman was tipped for big things in Sheffield but suffered a 10-8 defeat to Clarke, who had barely won a game in two years until his strong qualification tournament last week.
With five century breaks – matching the record for a first-round match at the Crucible – Allen was far from off the pace in the encounter.
But he came across a Welshman with nothing to lose in the biggest match of his career, left with no complaints after a thrilling best-of-19 encounter.
“For a debutant, he played out of his skin,” said Allen. “A lot of top players would have crumbled with the way I started each session, two centuries in the first and then another in the second.
“All credit to him, I’m disappointed with some of the things I did in the match, but you have to give him a lot of credit.
“I was scoring well but I was making simple mistakes. I didn’t feel like my safety was good enough even though I was scoring and that proved costly towards the end.”
This year’s World Championships is vastly different to most, played behind closed doors with no crowds allowed into the iconic Crucible Theatre.
The performances of each player seemed unaffected but Allen felt the lack of buzz certainly took away from the occasion.
And with the curtain now down on his season, the Antrim cueman is looking ahead at what’s to come, notably a busy calendar of events in the UK before the Christmas break.
“I thought the lack of crowd would be worse than what it was – I’ve played alright there, but I didn’t feel I could get him under any pressure,” he added.
“Big clearances mean more than just one frame when you can get on top of someone and have the crowd with you.
“There are lots of ifs and buts, I think it did make a difference without a crowd, you want them there to spur you on to make more big breaks.
“It’s been consistent in the early part of this season, but if you look at the Triple Crown events, it’s been disappointing to have early defeats in the Worlds and the Masters.
“They’re the tournaments I’m aiming for and it’s disappointing in that regard.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.