Mark Allen produced a brilliant performance to end Ronnie O’Sullivan’s reign at the Masters on Thursday.
The Northern Irishman took advantage of an unusually lacklustre display from the seven-time champion and conjured up an aggressive attacking onslaught of his own to book a semi-final place in London for only the third time in his career.
The question now is whether the 31 year-old can build on his impressive triumph by emerging with a maiden major crown.
Allen, who enjoyed a glittering amateur career before joining the professional ranks when he was 19, was expected to immediately translate his talent into titles but that hasn’t materialised yet on the biggest stages.
Despite boasting three ranking event successes and a handful of other minor wins, Allen has rarely threatened glory in the Triple Crown events – consisting of the World Championship, UK Championship, and the Masters.
Allen has been a mainstay of the top 16 for the last decade and, at one stage, was regarded as a potential champion when all the majors came around but several disappointments have ensured that his presence as one of the likely favourites has become somewhat of an afterthought.
Allen has shortened to 7/2 to win the Masters on Sunday. For more information and advice about betting on sports, be sure to check out your favourite betting sites.
The former world and European amateur champion has always had the pedigree to be heralded among the sport’s very elite but his consistency over the years has left a lot to be desired, often going through streaks of either rampant contention or limp inactivity.
A return of only one major final appearance isn’t really good enough for a player of Allen’s ability and he knows that, admitting as much in an enlightening interview podcast with Snooker Scene’s David Hendon released earlier this week.
One other interesting takeaway from that discussion was Allen’s reference to his first ranking event victory at the World Open in 2012.
Allen pummelled Stephen Lee 10-1 in the final to finally put to rest several seasons of onlookers questioning his credibility for attaining silverware, yet the Antrim man expressed a touch of disappointment that the contest wasn’t more dramatic – insinuating that he would have prefered a 10-9 on the black to make it more memorable.
Whether it’s rooted into his subconscious or not, this kind of mentality reveals quite a lot about his approach to the game because there have been countless occasions when matches Allen should have coasted to glory in needlessly turned into wars in which he would often come out on the wrong side.
That’s one of the reasons why his triumph over O’Sullivan was so impressive because, barring a little wobble in the last frame, Allen didn’t take his foot off the gas and confidently booked his place in the last four at the favourite’s expense.
Allen then stands only two more wins away from a groundbreaking triumph that could prove to be a huge turning point in his career but it’s important to remember that, in the Masters, the semi-finals marks just the halfway point.
All of the remaining competitors will represent difficult challenges to overcome but, after beating O’Sullivan, Allen’s confidence should be sky high.
It would be positive for the sport if Allen could join the illustrious club of Triple Crown champions because he’s undoubtedly one of the most engaging characters on the circuit and he is never shy of expressing an opinion, controversial or otherwise.
Even after his conquering of the “Rocket”, the 2011 UK Championship runner-up had a go at some members of the crowd who showed disrespect to him during the encounter.
Allen is a kind of love him or hate him player but there are plenty who will be on his side as he bids for the biggest trophy of his career this weekend at the Alexandra Palace.
Live coverage of the Masters continues on the BBC and Eurosport.
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