Mark Allen in Rapid Riga Qualification
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Mark Allen Qualifies for China Open

Masters champion Mark Allen returned to action for the first time since his landmark triumph in London with a hard-fought 6-4 success against Allan Taylor in qualification for the China Open on Monday.

Allen has reached five ranking event finals in China, winning twice. Photo credit: World Snooker

The Northern Irishman, who produced a terrific week of snooker to claim his maiden Triple Crown title at the Alexandra Palace earlier in January, compiled a high break of 127 as he held off a spirited challenged from Taylor.

It was important that Allen earned the victory in what has become one of the most lucrative events on the calendar – now boasting a total prize fund of an impressive £1 million.

Allen is languishing in 16th place in the provisional Race to the Crucible rankings so needs a strong few months if he is to guarantee his spot at the World Championship with an automatic berth.

Elsewhere, Shaun Murphy and Barry Hawkins also progressed to the last 64 in Beijing – the latter with a comeback win to deny young Irishman Josh Boileau in a close battle.

Former European under-21 champion Boileau, who has struggled for the majority of his first stint on the Main Tour as a professional, raced into a 3-0 lead but couldn’t maintain the momentum and the match eventually swung in favour of the reigning World Grand Prix champion.

Murphy wasn’t at his free-scoring best but two half-century breaks proved to be enough as he outlasted David Grace 6-3 while former China Open runner-up Ricky Walden went one better with a 6-2 defeat of Aditya Mehta.

The biggest upset of the day came in the form of Lyu Haotian’s impressive display against Ryan Day in which the talented 20 year-old got the better of the Welshman with a 6-3 scoreline.

Lyu, a semi-finalist in the Northern Ireland Open in 2017, scored heavily with breaks of 118, 78, 75, 66, and 64 consigning Day to an early exit that could potentially be very damaging to his own Sheffield ambitions later in the campaign.

The weekend’s play in Barnsley had proven to be a disappointment for the large Chinese contingent hoping to reach their home tournament with only Xiao Guodong and Yan Bingtao qualifying for the first round proper.

However, Lyu was joined on the third day by Zhou Yuelong, who comfortably beat Sean O’Sullivan 6-2, and 17 year-old Yuan Sijun, who overturned a 5-3 deficit to deny veteran Alan McManus in a decider.

Chen Zhe advanced as well at the expense of countryman Li Hang, who will surely be disappointed to begin the year so poorly having enjoyed such a fruitful second half of 2017.

Meanwhile, Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien knocked in four sizable contributions as he safely negotiated his hurdle of Hammad Miah while former UK and Masters champion Matthew Stevens produced his best performance in a long time as he pummelled Eden Sharav 6-1.

Among the others to advance were Tom Ford, Robbie Williams, Sam Craigie, and Chris Wakelin.

The final day of qualifiers on Tuesday will see the likes of John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, Stephen Maguire, and Ken Doherty enter the fray.

Live coverage is on the Eurosport Player and selected betting websites.

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


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