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My battle with Covid-19 isn't to blame for Masters loss, insists Allen after Higgins first round elimination

 

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Bed bound: Mark Allen struggled with coronavirus over the New Year

Bed bound: Mark Allen struggled with coronavirus over the New Year

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Bed bound: Mark Allen struggled with coronavirus over the New Year

Bed-ridden Mark Allen refused to blame a heavy bout of coronavirus for his first round Masters defeat against John Higgins.

The Antrim player went down 6-5 against the four-time world champion in Milton Keynes as he was unable to emulate his thrilling run to the 2018 title.

The World No.10 lifted the lid on his Covid-19 struggles over the festive period after he and his girlfriend both tested positive for the killer bug.

Allen, the reigning Champion of Champions, was sapped of energy heading into the New Year but insists his horror preparation had nothing to do with the result.

The 34-year-old said: "There's no doubting that the better player on the night won.

"(Preparation) hasn't been ideal but I don't want to use that as an excuse. I just didn't perform tonight.

"My girlfriend wasn't well for a few days and I felt a bit of a cold coming on. She decided she was going to get a test and I thought I may as well do the same - and we were both positive.

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"I'd like to think that myself and my girlfriend are two of the more careful ones. It just shows you how easy it is to pick it up because we were very careful.

"I was surprised because at that time, I didn't feel that bad, but then I had three days over New Year where I literally couldn't get out of bed. And that has a knock-on effect of not being able to practice for the next 10 days.

"It hit me worse than I thought. Even though I was never in any danger, I felt like even the week after, any little thing I did was taking my breath away a little bit.

"I didn't feel like I had enough energy and I felt constantly tired. It will probably take a bit of time to get over but it's absolutely no excuse for some of the shots I played badly tonight."

Five-time ranking event winner Allen struck a fluent second frame century but was always fighting an uphill battle against the evergreen Higgins, 45.

The Scot crafted visits of 84, 82 and 80 under the Marshall Arena lights and, while a ninth frame 62 from Allen helped tee up a decider, the 1999 and 2006 Masters champion edged over the line.

Allen won the prestigious Champion of Champions in November but has struggled on the Buckinghamshire baize this season. He's progressed past the third round of a ranking event on just two occasions and slumped to a first round exit at the World Grand Prix before Christmas.

The Antrim man slammed his regular failure to beat snooker's minnows and knows time is running out with the clock to the Crucible ticking.

"It's up to me to push up the rankings," he added.

"There's no doubting I can compete with the best in the world. I've showed that. My problem seems to be getting beat by the ones I shouldn't be getting beaten by.

"We're all going to lose matches against the top players, but I feel like I still lose too many matches against the lower-ranked players that I shouldn't be."

Meanwhile, David Gilbert booked his place in the semi-finals of the Masters for the second consecutive year after beating Kyren Wilson in a final-frame decider.

Breaks of 67 and 66 in the last two frames ultimately saw Gilbert come from behind to claim a 6-5 victory in Milton Keynes.

Despite Gilbert appearing to miscue on a simple black with the match at his mercy, Wilson could not capitalise and a missed pink to the middle sealed Gilbert's win.

Gilbert said: "I had a miscue and I'm sat in my chair thinking this is going to be a tough one to swallow - when Kyren missed that pink in the middle I could have stripped off and run around the table."

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