Allen Into Semi-Finals For First Time Since 2009
Mark Allen ground out a tough 13-10 victory over qualifier Jak Jones in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship to improve his disappointing Crucible record by reaching the one table set-up for the first time in 14 years.
Sheffield has not been a happy hunting ground for nine-time ranking event winner Allen; this was only his second quarter-final since 2011. And his only previous appearance in the semi-finals came in 2009 when he lost 17-13 to John Higgins.
The Northern Irishman, who lost six stone in weight last summer, is enjoying his best ever season having won three titles, and is looking to finish the campaign with a flourish. He can look forward to playing a four-session match for only the second time in his career when he takes on Higgins or Mark Selby on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Today’s result also keeps alive his chances of overtaking Ronnie O’Sullivan as world number one – if the pair were to meet in the final they would be competing for top-dog status in the rankings as well as the world title.
Welshman Jones has enjoyed the best tournament of his life, having won two matches to reach Judgement Day before knocking out three heavy hitters in Barry Hawkins, Ali Carter and Neil Robertson. The 29-year-old debutant looked in with a genuine chance to continue his run when he was tied at 10-10 today, but faded in the closing stages. Still, his £50,00 cheque is by far the biggest of his career and potentially moves him 16 places up the rankings to 36th.
Allen had first chance in the opening frame today but ran out of position on 25 and his opponent punished him with a break of 77 to go 9-8 ahead. Jones had a chance to double his lead but missed the black off its spot at 28-0 in frame 18, and Allen’s counter of 66 brought them back to level. Antrim’s Allen made a 64 to edge ahead, only for Jones to reply with a superb 124 for 10-10.
Frame 21 lasted 40 minutes and came down to the last two reds. Jones, leading 62-43, made a safety error and Allen took advantage with an excellent 33 clearance. And he capitalised on another Jones safety error in the next, making 64 to lead 12-10.
The 23rd was another scrappy affair, lasting exactly an hour. Jones got the two snookers he needed on the colours, but an exchange on the brown was resolved when Allen clipped a long pot into a top corner, and he added blue and pink to make sure.
“Jak was phenomenal in the first session and I was happy to get out 4-4,” said 37-year-old Allen. “Then in the second session we both struggled, so I was still happy at 8-8. He just wouldn’t go away. At 10-10 I thought he might get a bit edgy, and my experience might make the difference. I wasn’t at my best but I got to 13 first.
“It has been far too long since I was in the semi-finals, given what I have done in the game overall. I am going to enjoy every minute of it. The first box I wanted to tick here was to get to the semi-finals, and the second one is to lift the trophy on Monday night. I will get plenty of rest today and get ready for tomorrow night.
“John Higgins, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan are head and shoulders above everyone else, especially at the Crucible. It will be the ultimate test, but that’s why we play the game, I want to prove to myself that I can beat the best over the long distance, and I want to be one of the best myself. I am as relaxed as I have been at the Crucible for a long time and I will give it everything.”
Jones said: “I missed too many easy balls – sitters. I didn’t feel great throughout the whole match. I have hardly slept for the last two nights, I’m not sure why. This was my sixth game in the tournament so it has been a lot of matches. When I look back at the experience in a couple of weeks I’m sure I’ll realise that I have learned a lot. In the past I wasn’t that bothered about playing at the Crucible, but now I can see what it means and I would love to get there again next year.”
Meanwhile on the other table, Anthony McGill and Si Jiahui are still dead level, having started their second session at 4-4 and finished at 8-8. They return at 7pm tonight to play to a conclusion.
After sharing the first two frames today, Glasgow’s McGill went 8-6 ahead with top breaks of 88 and 68. But China’s Si, looking to become the first debutant to reach the semi-finals since Andy Hicks in 1995, fought back to 8-8 with 80 and 86.