Mark Allen believes that the emerging generation of Chinese snooker stars need more experience before they will become regular title winners.
World number 12 Allen heads to the International Championship in Daqing this weekend, with the world ranking event to run from October 28 to November 4. He reached the final last year before losing to Mark Selby.
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Luo Honghao – exciting tour rookie
Snooker has grown dramatically in China in recent years, with talented new players joining the tour every season. The likes of Yan Bingtao, Xiao Guodong, Zhou Yuelong, Li Hang and Lyu Haotian have all climbed up the rankings and gone deep in big tournaments. Last week at the English Open, tour rookie Luo Honghao, the WSF Champion, reached the quarter-finals and ran Ronnie O’Sullivan close. But Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo remain the only players from mainland China to win ranking events.
“The young guys coming through are very talented players, but they need more experience,” said 32-year-old Allen. “I lost eight semi-finals before I won one, which shows how hard it can be to make that breakthrough. You have to be patient. No one has a divine right to win titles. A lot of the new players are compared to Ding, but he was an exception. He is the best Asian player ever and the rest have a lot of catching up to do.
“It’s easier to break through in the current system (of flat 128 draws) because you will get your share of good draws over the season. And if you draw a top player in the first round, the experience is useful. In the old system when I started, I felt I virtually had to win a tournament just to qualify for the final stages.”
Northern Ireland’s Allen enjoyed the best moment of his career earlier this year when he won the Masters. Since then he has not touched the same heights; so far this season he has reached just one quarter-final, at the European Masters.
“I’m playing well, I’m just not getting to the later stages of tournaments. I need to stay patient,” he said. “Just because I have won a big tournament doesn’t change the fact that I try to win every event that I play in. I give every match and every tournament the credit it deserves. I’m not a target setter, I just try my best at every event. It’s easy to say you want to win the World Championship one day, but the game itself is not easy. I give my best all the time and whatever I get is what I deserve.”
Allen has openly admitted in the past that he does not enjoy spending time away from home at tournaments in the Far East. “I still struggle,” he said. “I’m in a much better place mentally now but it’s difficult being far away from home, especially now I have a baby daughter (15-month-old Harleigh). I try to socialise more than I did in the past, going out for dinner, or just getting out of my room and interacting with people.
“One thing I like about Daqing is that the conditions are very good because it’s dry. Beijing is the same. So hopefully I can play well and get some results.”