There must be something about the local cuisine on Hainan Island that really appeals to Mark Allen.Last year he captured his maidan ranking title when he beat Stephen Lee 10-1 in the final and yesterday he once again lifted the Haikou World Open title this time beating Matthew Stevens 10-4.
This has been a strange season for Allen,on more then one occasion he has come into a tournament in great form only to run into someone else playing at their peak.The most obvious examples of this were his deciding frame defeats to Trump in the International Championship and to Robertson in the Masters and I think few would argue that he wouldn't have had live chance of lifting those titles had he managed to come through these matches.History looked as though it may be repeating itself here when he one again came up against the man in form,this time in the shape of John Higgins at the semi finals stage.Allen ironically this time round had struggled through his opening rounds to get this far but with the score at 2-2 at the interval,he produced four stunning frames to reach the final wining 6-2.
Stevens,like Allen in many respects, has been one of the games great underachievers.When he burst on the scene over a decade ago many had him down as a potential future world champion and although he did reach two world finals and has won a the Uk and Masters titles,he has never really lived up to that early promise.
That said he has been enjoying a slight renaissance in recent time re-establishing himself in the world top 16 and had survived one of the most extraordinary weeks in his career.which involved using three different cues after his own had gone missing to reach his eighth ranking final following a 6-5 win over Neil Robertson in the semi final.
On to the final itself then and in truth the result was never in doubt from early on when Allen opened up an early 4-0 lead.and finished the session leading 6-3.In the evening session Allen managed to get the four frames he required with the minimum of fuss to seal the 10-4 victory.
The hope now for Allen will be that he can build on this victory and really establish himself as a serious contender for every tournament he plays in.The fact that this week he seemed to back up his undoubted natural ability with a determination to ground out the result when needed can only be a good thing for him going into last few tournaments of the season.
Finally a few word on the week as a whole.
I think despite the tough conditions the players were playing under. that it was clear that a few of our big manes have awoken from their mid season slumber and were just beginning to find some form as our games biggest prize looms on the horizon.This can only be good thing as we build up to the Crucible in April.
With this in mind it was again disappointing to see such small numbers in attendance all week and whether it was,as has been suggested,that the prices charged in China are too high for ordinary people to afford or if it's a fact that the events are just poorly promoted, but it really takes away from the tournament to see players surrounded by empty seats.
Anyway these things wont matter to Mark Allen as he flies home today with the trophy and the £85,000 winners cheque.Next up we have The PTC Grand Finals in Galway Ireland and I'm looking forward to a great week in one of our best and most exciting cities to visit.