Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi will face each other in the first round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Mark Allen
At one point during the 2022/23 campaign, it looked as though Mark Allen might be on course to break a few records.
Such was his dominance between October and January, the Northern Irishman reached four ranking finals in quick succession – winning three of them.
That sequence included lucrative triumphs in the UK Championship and the World Grand Prix, helping him rise to a career-high ranking of number three in the world.
While the Pistol has been enormously successful this season, it’s questionable whether or not he has actually produced his A-game, instead relying on a patient dogged mentality to win at all cost.
Allen has lost a bit of that winning formula since January, leading to concerns that he might have maxed out on his season.
A player who has generally struggled at the Crucible Theatre with just one semi-final appearance to his name, it will be interesting to see what kind of approach he has in 2023.
This season for Fan Zhengyi
Fan Zhengyi beat Iulian Boiko and Stephen Maguire in the qualifiers to secure his first World Championship appearance at the Crucible Theatre.
The latter victory was eye-catching considering he found himself 4-0 down at the start of the game before consigning Maguire to a first missed Crucible visit since 2003.
Fan is a strange entity on the circuit, because he undeniably boasts a great deal of pedigree but his consistency is all over the place.
The 22 year-old demonstrated his capability at the Champion of Champions with victories over Neil Robertson and Ryan Day seeing him through to the semi-finals in Bolton.
Apart from that, examples of his form from last season, when he caused a sensation by winning the European Masters, have been non-existent.
Allen and Fan head-to-head
There has been just one previous encounter between Allen and Fan on the main tour.
It was at last year’s German Masters when the Antrim man thrashed his younger opponent 5-0 at the quarter-final stage in Berlin.
There are some who are labelling this as a potential banana skin tie for Allen, but I’m not so sure about that.
Fan did nothing before winning a shock European Masters title last season, and he has done very little since then either.
Beating Maguire in the qualifiers from 4-0 down was impressive, but the Scot is a shadow of his former self.
Allen’s form may have gone off the boil since the turn of the year, but with his newly acquired mastery of zen-like patience, it’s hard to see him losing this one.
Prediction: Mark Allen 10-5 Fan Zhengyi
Monday, April 17th – 10am and 7pm
Featured photo credit: WST