Allen beats Walden to land Play­ers Cham­pi­onship af­ter tense fi­nal

The Herald - Herald Sport - - GOLF, SNOOKER - MARK HUNTER

MARK ALLEN came out on top in a see-saw bat­tle to beat Ricky Walden 10-6 in the fi­nal of the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship in Manch­ester and seal his third rank­ing event ti­tle and first in the United King­dom.

The 30-year-old be­comes the first North­ern Ir­ish­man to win a rank­ing event in the UK since Den­nis Tay­lor lifted the world crown in 1985.

Allen set up his vic­tory by win­ning five suc­ces­sive frames to lead 6-3 go­ing into the evening ses­sion and hit back strongly to take the last three frames af­ter English­man Walden had fought back from 7-3 to 7-6. Ranked ninth in the world, Allen over­came 2005 world cham­pion Shaun Mur­phy in the semi­fi­nal and sealed the £100,000 win­ner’s prize with breaks of 61 and 67 in the fi­nal’s last two frames.

World num­ber 10 Walden, 33, who beat Barry Hawkins 6-3 in his semi­fi­nal, en­sured a tense en­counter but was edged out in the cru­cial 14th and 15th frames af­ter claw­ing his way back to 7-6 and was never at his best.

Allen fought back from 3-1 down in the first ses­sion to win five suc­ces­sive frames and lead 6-3 go­ing into the evening thanks to four half-cen­tury breaks.

He in­creased his lead to 7-3 with breaks of 52 and 22 in the evening’s first ses­sion but Walden took the next three frames to put the pres­sure back on Allen.

Hav­ing lost six frames on the bounce Walden stopped the rot with a break of 62 to re­duce the deficit to 7-4.

Walden then made a su­perb break of 92 to make it 7-5 and edged to within one frame of Allen at 7-6 af­ter hold­ing his nerve to clear up and pun­ish his op­po­nent for miss­ing a brown with the rest when a tight 13th frame had been evenly poised.

The 14th frame was an equally-tense af­fair that also lasted more than half an hour. Walden re­quired snook­ers with the score 63-28 but Allen pot­ted a long brown and then fluked the blue to end his three-frame los­ing streak and move to within two frames of vic­tory at 8-6 ahead.

Allen took con­trol of the 15th frame thanks to an ex­cel­lent break of 61 af­ter tak­ing to the ta­ble with noth­ing much on and strode pur­posely to­wards vic­tory with a 67 break in the fi­nal frame – and it proved enough. Allen was thrilled with his suc­cess. He said on ITV4: “From 3-1 down today I found a bit of form, won six frames on the spin and got my con­fi­dence back.

“Tonight it wasn’t like that at all. I was very, very ner­vous, didn’t want to speak to any­one be­fore­hand. I prob­a­bly bit the nose off my wife once or twice.

“I just wanted to get the job done, it means so much to me.”

FO­CUSED: Allen en route to vic­tory

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