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Mark Allen can win World Championship if he shows his true quality, insists legend White

 

Starting point: Mark Allen will launch his bid for world glory
Starting point: Mark Allen will launch his bid for world glory

By Steven Beacom

Snooker legend Jimmy White believes Northern Ireland's Mark Allen has a real shot at winning this year's World Championship at the Crucible.

White, a runner-up in Sheffield six times, says that if the Antrim man keeps his temperament and plays to the level he can, he has every chance of following in the footsteps of countrymen Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor and lifting the trophy.

Allen starts his campaign for glory today against China's Zhou Yuelong.

The Ulsterman, who is World No.6, has had a fine season and White suggests that if he shows the form that saw him win the International Championship final against Aussie Neil Robertson in China back in November, he will go far in the tournament.

"When he beat Neil Robertson in China, the way he played in that tournament he could beat anybody in the world," said White, working as a pundit for Eurosport at the Crucible.

"When Mark is on form, he annihilates players. He outscores opponents which is the way to be because that way you can go through tournaments like a knife through butter, though the scrappy games don't suit him as much."

White, who was victorious in the inaugural ROKiT World Seniors Tour 6 Reds Championship in Belfast last month, added: "Mark has a very good temperament and knows how to win. If he keeps that temperament I believe he has as good a chance as anyone of winning. Alex and Dennis won it before and it would be great for Northern Ireland if Mark went all the way this year."

Meanwhile, amateur James Cahill is five frames away from producing one of the all-time sporting shocks at the Crucible.

Cahill, the first amateur to play at the World Championship, leads Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-4 at the halfway stage of their first-round match in Sheffield.

World No.1 O'Sullivan looked out of sorts throughout and must pick his game up when play resumes today.

Cahill rarely looked in awe of his fancied opponent, who is chasing a sixth world crown.

John Higgins, hunting a fifth title, is safely through to round two after beating Mark Davis 10-7, rattling in breaks of 100, 135 and 132 along the way.

Former world champion Shaun Murphy condemned Luo Honghao to the heaviest defeat in tournament history.

In winning 10-0, Murphy became just the second man to record a Crucible whitewash, while Luo's 89 points were a record low.

Murphy now faces Robertson, who won his first-round clash against Michael Georgiou 10-1, and hopes he can make the most of his late-season form.

"After the season I have had, never in my wildest dreams did I think I could come here and win 10-0," Murphy said.

Meanwhile, World No.2 Mark Selby had to come from 5-1 down in order to progress to the second round as he was given an almighty fright by Chinese youngster Zhao Xintong.

The 22-year-old played some simply stunning snooker in the early sessions, racing out into a four-frame lead before Selby could even blink.

However, the three-time world champion showed all his pedigree to battle back and draw level at 7-7, and from there all his experience told.

World No.67 Xintong, having been clawed back when it looked like he was on the cusp of the biggest victory of his young career, buckled under the pressure and allowed Selby to rattle off the final three frames to complete a 10-7 win, which he capped with a fist pump, reflecting how hard he had to work.

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