Mark Allen booked his place in the third round of the 19.com Northern Ireland Open with a 4-0 win over Jamie O’Neill in Belfast.
Northern Ireland’s number one Allen has strongly contended for silverware in recent weeks, but fallen narrowly short. He was pipped 6-5 by Mark Selby in a thrilling semi-final at the 19.com English Open and lost out 6-4 against Judd Trump in the semis of last week’s Champion of Champions.
Five-time ranking event winner Allen has admitted to suffering from nerves in front of his home crowd, having lost out in the first and second rounds in the last two years. He will be hoping for better this week as he continues to push for a maiden Northern Ireland Open title.
This evening Allen composed breaks of 53, 71, 64 and 63 on his way to a quickfire victory in just 54 minutes. Allen now faces Scott Donaldson tomorrow afternoon, with the winner progressing to a last 16 tie in the evening.
“That’s probably the best I have played in Belfast so far,” said 2018 Masters champion Allen. “There is a long way to go. Tomorrow is the big day because we have two matches. You feel like you are part of a big event if you get through to Friday and the one table setup. I feel the pressure every match, more so than every other tournament, but I am starting to handle it better.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan came through an entertaining encounter with Chinese 16-year-old Lei Peifan, winning 4-2.
The Rocket claimed silverware earlier this season at the invitational Shanghai Masters, which he won for a third consecutive year. However, he needs deep runs in ranking events if he is to qualify for next year’s Coral Series, as he currently sits in 83rd position on the one-year list. Only the top 32 will qualify for February’s World Grand Prix.
Tour rookie Lei made an impressive start to this evening’s encounter. He compiled a run of 87 to take the opener. O’Sullivan responded with a break of 84 to make it 1-1.
O’Sullivan then fired in a century run of 101. However, Lei, who recorded his first victory on tour in the opening round against Louis Heathcote, refused to back down. He made his first professional century to level at 2-2 with a break of 100.
36-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan then charged for the line, making breaks of 95 and 54 to round off the win. He averaged just 13.94 seconds per shot over the course of the match.
“He’s a good player and he pots a lot of good balls,” said O’Sullivan. “I’ve got a son and a daughter older than him. I don’t want to keep playing people like him, he is terrifying.”
Defending and World Champion Judd Trump produced a fine display to sweep aside Zhang Anda 4-1.
The Ace in the Pack composed breaks of 64, 125, 76 and 90 on his way to the routine victory.
Shaun Murphy booked his place the third round with a 4-1 win over Luo Honghao, while Stuart Bingham knocked out Northern Ireland’s Jordan Brown by a 4-1 scoreline. John Higgins was another 4-1 winner, seeing off Poland’s Kacper Filipiak.