If you were asked to recount the year 2009, you might struggle to conjure up any memories of what happened. For Mark Allen, it will be scorched into his memory that was the last time he reached the fabled ‘one table set-up’ at the Crucible Theatre – that is, the World Championship semi-finals. On that occasion, the Irishman lost out to eventual champion John Higgins, and they could yet be reacquainted in the last four once again with Higgins tackling Mark Selby in the quarter-finals.
Ronnie O'Sullivan's Defeat
The shock defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan to Luca Brecel in the other half of the draw has opened up the tournament, with Allen now the third favorite for those betting on snooker at odds of 5/1. The winner of Higgins and Selby, the former world champions, are the market principles.
But that won’t faze Allen, who had to grind out his own quarter-final victory over Jak Jones. The pair were locked at 8-8 as they resumed their final session, but it was the Irishman who asserted control to run away a 13-10 victor – despite the match ticking past the eight-hour mark.
𝗔𝗟𝗟𝗘𝗡 𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗦 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗢𝗡𝗘 𝗧𝗔𝗕𝗟𝗘 𝗦𝗘𝗧𝗨𝗣 🙌
Mark Allen has beaten Jak Jones 13-10 to reach the Crucible semi finals for the second time!
The Pistol will face Mark Selby or John Higgins. #CazooWorldChampionship pic.twitter.com/PuxNYKoEmB
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) April 26, 2023
Whether that grueling encounter has any impact on Allen moving forward remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that his health kick – the 37-year-old has lost a mammoth four stone after admitting he was struggling to play certain shots on the baize – will help him as the tournament enters its demanding best-of-33 frame phase.
A Year to Remember
Allen was already one of the favorites to win a first-world title off the back of an outstanding 2022/23 season. The man known as The Pistol has fired from the get-go, reaching four ranking event finals and winning three of them. Defeat at the conclusion of the British Open to Ryan Day would have hurt Allen – particularly as he led 7-6 at one point in a race to ten frames.
But that loss did not derail his progress, and Allen himself was soon in the winner’s circle in jubilant fashion: the Belfast man landing his second Northern Ireland Open crown on home soil following a 9-4 triumph over Zhou Yuelong in the final.
The snooker fraternity has its ‘triple crown’ of major titles – the World Championship, UK Championship, and The Masters – and Allen added his second of the trio in November at the UK to go with his Masters triumph in 2018.
Congratulations Mark Allen for winning the 2022 UK Championship! 😎#snooker #ilovesnooker @pistol147 pic.twitter.com/CwCnhTXJAR
— I ❤️ Snooker (@ILoveSnooker_) November 21, 2022
But boy, did he do it the hard way. After wins over his countryman Jordan Brown, Kyren Wilson, Sam Craigie, and Jack Lisowski, Allen ran into Chinese cueman Ding Junhui in the final at the Barbican Centre – he was soon 1-6 down in a race to ten as his best game cruelly eluded him. But the Irishman played like a man possessed in the evening session, making five half-century breaks and rattling off nine of the ten frames played as he blitzed his way to a 10-7 win.
There was still time for one more ranking event title at the World Grand Prix in January, so now all eyes are on the World Championship and Allen’s attempt to complete the triple crown. He could not have prepared any better for his date with destiny.
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