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Allen’s Crucible Spot In Doubt After Ding Defeat

Mark Allen suffered a 6-2 defeat to Ding Junhui in the first round of the Ladbrokes Players Championship, leaving him in danger of dropping out of the world’s top 16.

Allen won the Masters just two months ago but could become the first player ever to hold that prestigious title but miss out on a place in the final stages of the World Championship. He currently stands 16th in the race to the Crucible but will drop down to 17th if Ryan Day beats Mark Selby tomorrow. So Allen could go to next month’s China Open needing to win matches to be sure of a Crucible spot, as all players outside the top 16 after that event will have to win three qualifying matches to make it to the final stages in Sheffield.

Tonight’s match in Llandudno was scrappy in the early stages, Ding leading 3-1 at the interval with a top break of 50. Allen pulled one back with a 72 before China’s Ding reeled off three in a row with top runs of 81 and 61. He goes through to face Ronnie O’Sullivan or Graeme Dott in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night (tickets still available – click here for details).

Allen said: “That was probably the worst I have played all season. It has been coming because I have been struggling mentally for a while. I’ve been practising really hard and well – last week I had back to back 147s. But practice means nothing when you are out there and all the negative feelings come back. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Nothing is coming easy and it’s a bit of a comedown from the Masters.

“It is a brutally tough game mentally sometimes. I have to keep knuckling down and hopefully the results will change. If someone goes past me in the rankings this week it might help me because it’s weird being the one everyone is chasing. You feel as if you are looking over your shoulder and trying to protect your lead. I might have to go to China being positive and trying to win matches.

“I can’t think too much ahead. The China Open is a big tournament with lots of money available. It will be in my hands, if I go there and win the tournament that will take care of the rankings. If I have to go and qualify for Sheffield it wouldn’t be the first time, if that happened and I got through the three matches I’d be very sharp for the Crucible.”

Shaun Murphy scored a 6-3 win over Kyren Wilson despite suffering from a neck and back injury which has stopped him from playing snooker for the past three weeks.

World number seven Murphy fired breaks of 115 and 133 in taking a 3-1 lead, then won frame five on the colours and the sixth with a 47 clearance. Wilson pulled one back with a 71 then took the eighth as well to make it 5-3, but Murphy dominated the ninth to set up a quarter-final with John Higgins or Anthony McGill on Friday.

“I’ve had neck and back problems for many years,” said Murphy. “I have been able to keep it under wraps in the past. Now I’ve had it for two or three weeks and had to pull out of the Gibraltar Open and Romanian Masters. If I’m being honest, I shouldn’t be here this week. But there’s only so much snooker I can watch at home on TV without getting under my wife’s feet and getting a bit grumpy!

“I haven’t hit a ball since losing to Gerard Greene in the Welsh Open. I had a couple of practice sessions today but went into the match tonight with zero expectation, and played better than I could have imagined. It’s a massive bonus for me to win tonight and I’m thrilled to have the chance of another match here.

“In the last few weeks, the only time I’ve left the house is to go for treatment. I’ve been having almost daily physiotherapy, I’ve had acupuncture and seen a chiropractor who has been snapping things I’m not sure should have been snapped! I’d pay a fortune if someone could open my back up, rearrange everything, sew me up and send me on my way. You take that freedom of movement for granted, and when that’s taken away you realise how fortunate you are when everything is going well.”