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Allen Retains Haikou Title


Mark Allen won his second ranking title by beating Matthew Stevens 10-4 in the final of the Yearly Yuan-jiang Gujinggong Liquor Haikou World Open.

Allen cruised to victory in the final against Stevens to win the event for the second consecutive year. He’s the first player to win the same world ranking event in back-to-back years since John Higgins captured the Welsh Open crown in 2010 and 2011.

Antrim’s 27-year-old Allen remains unbeaten at the tournament on Hainan Island to the south of mainland China, having won ten consecutive matches. The Northern Irishman received the trophy and a cheque for £85,000, and jumps two places to number seven on the ranking list.

Allen went through several years of struggling to fulfil his potential, and didn’t reach his first ranking final until the 2011 UK Championship, which he lost to Judd Trump. The left-hander has now established himself as a proven winner and certainly has the talent to continue his progress.

He has shown his best form in patches this season, particularly in winning the European Tour event in Antwerp in October and a Championship League group in January. And he played brilliantly to beat John Higgins in the semi-finals yesterday, and had far too much for Welshman Stevens today.

Stevens, age 35, enjoyed a run to the final which bordered on the miraculous, having won his first two matches without his own cue. But in the end he had to settle for the £35,000 runner-up prize and has now lost seven of his eight ranking finals.

Allen, who thrashed Stephen Lee 10-1 in last year’s final, stormed ahead today with breaks of 48, 52 and 93 in taking the first three frames. Stevens led 55-0 in the fourth only for Allen to make a superb 58 clearance for 4-0.

Welshman Stevens rallied after the interval with 67 and 112 to get to 4-2, before Allen pulled away again to take the next two frames, compiling a run of 100 in the eighth. Stevens took a scrappy last frame of the session to keep his hopes of a fight-back alive at 6-3.

Stevens looked likely to win the first frame of the evening session until he snookered himself on the last yellow after potting the black. It came down to a safety battle on the blue, and Allen thumped in a brilliant long pot and cleared to snatch it.

A break of 100 saw Stevens back to 7-4, only for Allen to win the next with a 55. And when he cleared from the last red in the 13th frame to make it 9-4, his opponent’s hopes had vanished. Allen made a composed 68 in frame 14 to clinch the title.

“I’m very happy to win and retain my title, to win the same tournament two years in a row is a great achievement,” said Allen. “The snooker wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I didn’t get into a rhythm and I didn’t score heavily. The balls were awkward and a lot of the frames were scrappy. But I fought hard and won some close frames which were very important.

“I’m proud of myself for the way I handled it, considering it wasn’t my style of match. I like to get the balls open and make breaks and entertain the crowd, but sometimes you can’t do that.

“The scoreline was flattering, it wasn’t as one-sided as that. But the result is all that matters. My form has been good for the last few months so I’m relieved, more than anything, to finally get a win. Hopefully I can push on now and win more. If I can do well at the PTC Grand Finals and the China Open then it will give me a lot of confidence going into the World Championship.”

Stevens, who is up to number ten in the world, said: “The start of the match was important, it could have been 2-2 but I was 4-0 down and it’s difficult to catch up after that. I could never get back to within one frame.

“It wasn’t a great match today but Mark’s safety was a lot better than mine and he did the job, so well done to him. It’s always disappointing to lose in finals, but it’s still been a good week for me, especially after losing my cue. I’ve earned a lot of ranking points and I know I’m safe in the top 16.”