Players Championship
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Mark Allen – ‘I’d rather play Zhang Anda’

Mark Allen admitted he’d rather face Zhang Anda in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Players Championship on Sunday in Telford.

The Northern Irishman wasn’t at his best but emerged from the first semi-final at the Telford International Centre with a 6-3 victory over Ali Carter.

Through to a 19th career ranking final, Allen has already captured the Snooker Shoot Out title this season in addition to the invitational Champion of Champions crown.

Already guaranteed a cheque worth £50,000 this week, Allen has risen to number ten on the provisional one-year rankings list.

That puts him into a strong position to qualify for the 12-strong Tour Championship field in April.

The world number three, however, will have more immediate ambitions of claiming an 11th piece of ranking silverware.

Allen awaits the winner of the second semi-final fixture on Saturday evening between Mark Selby and Zhang Anda.

The 38 year-old didn’t hesitate to reveal which of the two competitors he’d rather encounter in Sunday’s Players Championship final.

“I don’t want to come here to finish second. That would be disappointing,” Mark Allen told the World Snooker Tour.

“But I’ve ticked a few boxes this week. I’ve been trying something different like I’ve talked about before.”

“It was not quite working today if I’m honest, but I still tried to stick with it. I played really good stuff against [Mark] Williams, and I’ve battled through.

“I think I’ve guaranteed my Tour Championship spot now, which is what I came here to do with this and China.

“So hopefully I can relax a little bit come Sunday and just try to enjoy it.

“You never know what’s around the corner, every day is different. There’s no guarantee that whoever I play on Sunday is going to play their best stuff.

“But it would be nice to repeat that performance against Williams. I feel like if I was to repeat that, I would win.

“From a completely selfish point of view, I’d rather play Zhang Anda. Just because that keeps Selby’s losing streak and in the doldrums a little bit longer.

“If he gets on a winning run, he’s hard to stop as we’ve seen in the past.

“Looking further ahead – the Tour Championship, China, the World Championship – someone like Selby, you want to try and keep his confidence as low as possible.

“From that point of view, I’d love to play Zhang Anda. But look, if Selby gets through, it’s going to be very, very tough.

“You know what you’re going to get with Mark, let’s be honest. One of the all-time greats – you don’t want to play Mark Selby when his confidence is up.”

Zhang, meanwhile, reached the last four earlier on Friday afternoon after holding off a late charge from his idol John Higgins to win 6-4.

The vastly improved Chinese cueist was in fine form at the start of the match, reeling off breaks of 104, 102, 95, 84, and 79 to lead 5-1.

Higgins scrambled his way back into contention by taking the following three frames, but a break of 56 helped International Championship winner Zhang through.

The 32 year-old needs to win the title this week to gain an invitation to the inaugural Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker next month.

Only the top eight from the official two-year world rankings list, plus two additional wildcards, will qualify to compete in Saudi Arabia.

2024 Players Championship draw

Round of 16 (bo11)

Judd Trump 6-2 Chris Wakelin
Tom Ford 2-6 Ali Carter

Mark Williams 3-6 Mark Allen
Gary Wilson 6-4 Hossein Vafaei

Zhang Anda 6-5 Noppon Saengkham
Ding Junhui 4-6 John Higgins

Barry Hawkins 3-6 Mark Selby
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Zhou Yuelong

Quarter-Finals (bo11)

Judd Trump 4-6 Ali Carter
Mark Allen 6-4 Gary Wilson

Zhang Anda 6-4 John Higgins
Mark Selby 6-0 Ronnie O’Sullivan

Semi-Finals (bo11)

Ali Carter 3-6 Mark Allen
Zhang Anda 6-5 Mark Selby

Final (bo19)

Mark Allen 10-8 Zhang Anda

Featured photo credit: WST

One Comment

  1. Selby has won all five of his meetings with Zhang. This is their first meeting since Zhang has become a tournament winner and a top 16 player.

    Allen is playing in the World Mixed Doubles Championship. I did wonder as he could’ve either drawn playing with ex partner Reanne Evans or facing her. It turns out he will pair up with Rebecca Kenna and face her and Luca Brecel in the fourth group match. Will we get a handshake this time? Ronnie O’Sullivan clearly didn’t want to play.

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