Mark Allen

Masters: Semi-Final Preview

The outcome of the 2018 Masters will be determined this weekend after the field of 16 has been whittled down to the final four in London.

Allen is bidding to emulate fellow Irishmen Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor as Masters winners. Photo credit: World Snooker

Only one former champion remains in the hunt for glory and the £200,000 top prize – Scotland’s John Higgins, who scored heavily in his 6-1 defeat of Ryan Day in the quarter-finals.

Higgins has generally blown hot and cold in this prestigious invitational with titles in 1999 and 2006 to his credit but numerous early exits have simultaneously tarnished his overall record in the competition.

The 42 year-old last reached the semi-final stage when the tournament was first held at the Alexandra Palace in 2012, losing out to eventual runner-up Shaun Murphy.

On this occasion, Higgins will face Mark Allen for a berth in the final after the Northern Irishman inflicted a similar 6-1 defeat on the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Allen will be required to overcome another all-time legend of the sport if he’s to reach a maiden Masters final and only the second major Sunday showdown of his career.

The 31 year-old is regarded as arguably one of the biggest underachievers in the game as his pedigree has not generated the number of titles that was once expected of him following a glittering amateur career.

Allen’s career so far has by no means been a poor one but he would admit himself that the fact he has failed to etch his name on one of the Triple Crown trophies represents a big disappointment.

The three-time ranking event winner’s battling qualities are well documented but it’s perhaps his lack of a killer instinct, coupled with the need for a greater consistency, that has held him back in the past.

Against Higgins, Allen actually boasts a superior head-to-head record but the “Wizard of Wishaw” prevailed in their last important fixture, a high-quality battle during last year’s World Championship in Sheffield.

Indeed, clashes between this pair tend to be entertaining and Allen has ousted the former world number one at the Masters on three occasions, including twelve months ago when the Antrim man emerged victorious in a thriller, 6-5.

In the other semi-final, Judd Trump meets Kyren Wilson in an all-English battle that marks a repeat of their Shanghai Masters final encounter from 2015.

Wilson stunned Trump on that day with a 10-9 victory and a couple of months later also accounted for the former UK champion at the lucrative Champion of Champions.

Like Allen and maybe even more so, Trump is a player who many feel has not lived up to the predictions that were once made regarding his future trophy-haul in the sport.

Funnily enough, the 28 year-old’s sole major glory to date came at the expense of Allen more than six years ago but he has rarely come close to adding to that tally since and he has never been beyond this point in the Masters.

Wilson possesses the kind of all-round game that can frustrate Trump so, even though he’ll be the favourite, it would not be a surprise to see this turn out to be a closely run battle that could go either way.

What’s more, the pressure is sort of off Wilson because he’s only making his second Masters appearance and he’s already exceeding expectations this week by embarking on a run to the last four.

Wilson is hailed by many as a player who will eventually join the highest echelons of the sport and the 26 year-old could go a long way to proving them right if he can rise to the occasion on Saturday against Trump.

On the other hand, this is a massive opportunity for Trump to finally start living up to the hype that has surrounded him ever since he was a young boy.

Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)


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