Tomorrow’s final of the 2012 Haikou World Open will be contested by Mark Allen and Stephen Lee after the pair overcame Mark Selby and Robert Milkins in their respective semi-finals today. Click below for a round-up of the action from the last four…
Trailing Mark Selby 5-2 during the first semi-final, few would have given Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen much hope of winning four frames in a row to defeat the world number one, but that is exactly what happened in a dramatic match in Hainan.
It was Selby who made the early running, breaks of 112 and 102 his latest centuries during what is sure to be a record-breaking season of scoring for the Leicester Jester helping him into leads of 3-1 and then 5-2.
As was the case during his earlier match against Judd Trump however, Allen was not about to give in and he was soon to draw level with runs of 80, 79 and 71. Selby having been almost completely frozen out during the previous three frames was to pot the first red in the decider, but that was to be all he would make as Allen finished the match in style with a break of 112.
Following a six-year run containing a number of semi-final setbacks, Allen is now through to his second ranking event final in the space of three months and will be hoping to end his overdue wait for a maiden title tomorrow. He commented after the match:
“It’s very, very good to get through as any win against Mark Selby is a good win but to come from 5-2 behind is even better and the way I played in the last four frames would be worthy of winning any match.”
“Hopefully I can now go on and win the tournament as to have played like that and not go on and win would be very disappointing.”
“When I was 5-2 down I didn’t think I was getting much luck but the last few frames things started to go for me. The conditions out there were still quite tricky and warm but it was much, much better than previously and if the conditions are like that tomorrow and I play the way I did today I’ve got a good chance.”
“I just want to go out and play well and give myself a chance of winning and if I play the way I have all week I’m confident of winning my first ranking title but it will be a tough match whoever I play.”
“You have to believe in your own ability and I know I’m a very good player but I’ve always struggled for consistency over the last few years.”
“I’ve got better now and a lot of people are saying my first ranking victory is just around the corner but it’s up to me to go out there and do it. I came here this week quietly confident and I think it’s about time I got my name on a trophy.”
In the final he will now meet four-time ranking event winner Stephen Lee who won the last four frames of his match against Robert Milkins to book his place in the final. While the match failed to live up to the standard of the first semi-final, the early stages were relatively close as the pair were level at 2-2 come the interval.
From there however the key frame was to be the sixth as first a missed blue which Milkins left short of the left-centre pocket, followed later by an in-off to the same pocket which left a free-ball for Lee, saw the Trowbridge man move two clear at 4-2, a position from which he would not look back.
Despite his defeat, it has still been an excellent week for Milkins who moves up to 37th on the latest projected seedings list and in with an outside chance of a place inside the top 32 with a strong performance at the World Championship.
For Stephen though it is a result that consolidates his position inside the top eight provisionally and sees him through to his first major final since the 2008 Masters. Victory tomorrow would underline a return to form that has not been as sudden as it might appear, but has been coming over an extended period dating back to the introduction of the PTC series in 2010.
Having regained his top 16 status earlier this season however, he no longer has to qualify for tournaments which has amongst other things, helped him to avoid facing the likes of John Higgins at the last 32 stage as he had last season at both the UK and World Championship.
Who will emerge victorious from the final? The head to head would appear to favour Lee who has won seven of their previous nine meetings, though four of those wins did come during the short-format Championship League, including the last three. Their biggest match to date came at the 2009 UK Championship in Telford when Lee resisted a brave effort from Allen who was experiencing cue problems at the time, to win in a decider.
We shall see from 6:30am tomorrow GMT…