Mark Allen and Ricky Walden will contest the final of the 2015 Ladbrokes Players Championship in Manchester on Sunday.
The pair emerged from contrasting semi-finals to set up a repeat of their 2014 International Championship showdown for the title, which Walden prevailed in 10-7.
On Saturday, both men overcame players with a higher ranking to move one step closer to a first ranking event title of the campaign.
For Northern Ireland’s Allen, it would mark his first triumph in an event of this status for more than three years – a long time for a player of his calibre.
However, the signs were good as he battled back from 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 down to beat Shaun Murphy 6-4 in a tough last four clash at Event City.
There have been times over the last number of seasons where the 30 year-old has got himself into good positions only to let his opponent back in, but ironically it was the other way around on this occasion as Murphy, following breaks of 79 and 97 which seemingly put him into an early command, completely lost his scoring prowess.
Allen, despite compiling a wonderful 134 in the third frame, wasn’t at the top of his attacking game either but fought well to deny Murphy, the World Grand Prix champion, a crack at successive ranking event victories.
Meanwhile, Walden’s success was completely different as he dominated Barry Hawkins from the outset.
The 33 year-old from Chester managed runs of 57, 63, 73, 104, 87 and 51 as he confidently overcame the 2014 champion 6-3.
Walden may be a three-time ranking event winner but all of those special moments came in Chinese tournaments.
Funnily enough, both of Allen’s victories also came in the Asian country so this final will provide an opportunity for one of them to finally establish themselves as winners to the UK public.
The pair have met quite a number of times down through the years with Walden enjoying the superior head-to-head record.
Obviously, their biggest clash came in Chengdu less than two years ago so it will be interesting to see if that has any effect on the outcome on this occasion.
Walden appears to be playing the better snooker so far this week with five centuries already to his name but on paper the duo look pretty evenly matched.
Most people will probably have Allen as the slight favourite but Walden is no slouch when he gets into these kinds of positions.
Indeed, while Allen has been defeated in three ranking event finals, Walden has only lost in one – and that was in the Indian Open when the final was a meagre best of nine frames.
There’s arguably more pressure on Allen as well, as he’s the player who more people have expected in the past, and continue to expect now, to go on to achieve great things.
As ever in a best of 19, the first session will be crucial as both cueists attempt to find their feet.
As the adage goes, a final cant be won in the opening session but it can effectively be lost.
It’s difficult to envisage either Allen or Walden running away with proceedings, though, so this tie has the makings of being a close one throughout.
The final is live on ITV4 from 1pm local time.
Categories: Snooker News