MARK Allen has retained his Haikou World Open title after sealing a comfortable victory against Matthew Stevens.
Just like a year ago, Allen strolled to victory and lifted his second major world ranking title since becoming professional with the 10-4 victory. He also collected the winners cash prize of £85,000.
The Northern Ireland ace becomes the first player to successfully defend one of the sport’s major titles since John Higgins was crowned Welsh Open champion in 2010 and again in 2011.
Despite winning his first major title in this event last year, Allen made the headlines for his Twitter outburst on the ‘horrendous’ living conditions in Haikou. Winning the event last year helped make up for that.
But there was no outburst or controversy this time around as he got the job done with five solid performances which have proved why the current world number nine should be considered as a serious contender for the World Championship crown in May.
If winning the title once wasn’t enough for China fans to forgive him, then winning it a second time in stylish fashion will surely go along way in doing so.
The final got off to an entertaining start as the Ulsterman came back from 44 points behind to win the opening frame thanks to a brilliant double shot on the final brown.
And there was cause for concern for Stevens, playing in first major final since the Bahrain Championship in November 2008, as a half century break and a run of 93 helped Allen to a 3-0 lead.
Things were to get worse for the Welshman in the next frame when he broke down while on a run of 49 which, like in frame one, led Allen to counter-attack for a 4-0 lead.
Stevens, looking for his first major ranking win since the Northern Ireland Trophy in 2005, managed to stop the rot after the interval when breaks of 49 and 67 gave him a much-needed first frame on the board.
And the world number 13 began to hit his stride when he fired in the first century break of the match of 112 to reduce his deficit to 4-2.
But the match went back to its original nature as Allen dominated the next frame before a break of 100 in the eighth restored his four-frame advantage at 6-2.
Stevens though kept his hopes of victory alive when he came out on top in a scrappy ninth frame to close the session trailing by three frames.
A good start to the evening session for Stevens was vital if he was to have any hope of capturing this season’s World Open title. Unfortunately for the Welsh star it was Allen who extended his lead after a stunning long pot on the final blue helped him pot the remaining colours to go 7-3 ahead.
Stevens responded well in the frame 11 hitting his second century to reduce his arrears to 7-4. But sadly that was to be Stevens’ last frame of the championship as Allen won the remaining frames to complete a comfortable victory.
Allen’s Road to Haikou Glory
R1 – beat Ryan DAY 5-2
R2 – beat Robert MILKINS 5-2
QF – beat Ricky WALDEN 5-1
SF – beat John HIGGINS 6-2
Final – beat Matthew STEVENS 10-4