Masters 2017 – Day 2 as it happened

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Yesterday we saw two completely different matches at Ally Pally.

In the afternoon, Mark Allen beat John Higgins in a deciding frame, after a very tense battle. There were twists and turns, good snooker and unexpected mistakes … the perfect recipe for a good afternoon at the snooker. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise how close this one was: the head-to-head between the two stands at 9-9 …

Joe Perry battered a tired Stuart Bingham by 6-1 in the evening. Joe, who had recently expressed his frustration at the state of his game, and considered his future, played very, very well indeed and is now again in love with his snooker. Stuart, who had just become a father on Saturday was out of sorts and, although he made a marvelous 132 in the only frame he won, will be very disappointed with his performance. That said it’s not as much as a surprise as it seems because Joe holds a very comfortable 9-5 head-to-head advantage against Stuart.

The report on the John Higgins v Mark Allen match on Worldsnooker:

Monday 16 Jan 2017 05:12PM

Mark Allen got the better of an exciting final frame to beat John Higgins 6-5 in the first round of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace.

Four-time World Champion Higgins was left to rue crucial misses in the last frame which allowed his opponent to edge through to a quarter-final clash with Judd Trump or Marco Fu on Thursday evening (tickets still available, click here for details).

Scotland’s Higgins has a mixed record at the Masters – he won it in 1999 and 2006 but has now suffered 12 first round exits. Antrim’s Allen now has the chance to reach the semi-finals for the third time having lost at that stage in 2011 and 2015.

Higgins won a scrappy opening frame then made a 111 in the second to lead 2-0. World number ten Allen hit back to take the next two frames with a top break of 51. The next four frames were also shared – Allen making the better breaks with 81 and 104 in the sixth and seventh.

Allen was on 67 in frame nine when he missed the blue to a centre pocket, letting Higgins in to make a 67 clearance to force a repotted black. After a safety exchange, Allen converted a superb long range pot into a top corner to go 5-4 ahead. Higgins responded with a run of 77 in the next to set up the decider.

First chance went to Higgins and he made 30 before missing a red to a top corner. Nerves took hold as both players passed up opportunities, Higgins missing the yellow to a baulk corner and the black off its spot when he led 32-19. The third of those errors was vital as Allen compiled a run of 44 which proved enough for victory, as Higgins was unable to get the snookers he needed on the colours.

“I was just glad John missed the black in the last frame as that gave me another chance, and I took it well,” said 30-year-old Allen. “It was very tense in the last. I noticed John shaking quite a bit. Him missing the black off the spot was unexpected – but not so much to me.

“It shows how much it means to John considering what he’s done in the game. It was just one of those matches you didn’t want to lose. One thing I have always had is bottle.

“I’m not playing that great. I played ok in spells there. My safety was good today, I was very impressed with my safety. So if I can keep doing that and find a bit of rhythm in the balls, I can battle hard and never give up. That’s one of my best attributes. It’ll stand me in good stead when I find that good form I’m looking for.

“If you don’t play well here, you’re going home. I think I like to think that I can raise my game against the very best players in the world.”

Allen was also asked about a gesture at the end of the ninth frame when he raised his hand to his ear, towards the crowd, after potting the respotted black.

“It was just a bit of fun,” said the Ulsterman. “I enjoyed the pot on the black, I think it was the first time since 2004 I’ve potted a long ball. There was absolutely no malice towards John. It was great that he did it at the end of the next frame as well and I think that was the spirit the game was played in.”

Higgins said: “I thought I got a kick on the black (in the last frame) when I was playing it into the reds. It bounced, but obviously it’s a bad miss and it’s the miss that cost me the game. I had a good chance at the start then I missed a bad red. I’ve got no complaints. I missed the clutch balls at the end and if you do that, you don’t win.”

The report on the Stuart Bingham v Joe Perry match on Worldsnooker:

Monday 16 Jan 2017 10:12PM

Joe Perry scored an emphatic 6-1 win over world number two Stuart Bingham on Monday night to reach the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters for the second time in his career.

Bingham, the 2015 World Champion, became a father for the second time just two days ago and he looked fatigued as he made two many errors against ninth seed Perry, who now meets Ding Junhui on Friday evening (tickets still available – click here for details).

Cambridgeshire’s Perry has been on a patchy run of form in recent months but produced an impressive display tonight in front of an enthusiastic Alexandra Palace crowd.

He made a break of 116 to take the opening frame, then nicked the second with an excellent long pot on the respotted black, after Bingham had passed up the chance to seal the frame when he missed the final blue.

Bingham hit back with a break of 132, the highest of the tournament so far, but Perry won the next three frames with runs of 76, 77 and 107 to lead 5-1.

Both players missed chances in frame seven and it came down to the colours, and Perry cleared from blue to black to seal victory.

“I’m thrilled with my performance,” said 42-year-old Perry. “It was totally unexpected but you just never know when you’re going to hit form at this game. I’ve probably been playing some of the worst snooker I’ve ever played in my career over the past few months.

“I just thought tonight, I don’t care what happens, I might lose 6-0. But it’s amazing what can happen when you put no pressure on yourself, no expectations.

“It’s nice to win here. It’s stopped the mad thoughts I’ve had about not ever playing again. That winning feeling is great, I don’t think you can replace that with anything. I was never ever going to give up snooker, I just fell out of love with it for a while. Twenty five years in the same job is hard.

“The atmosphere here really is incredible. I never thought we could replace the Wembley Conference Centre. That place was special, but I think this is very close if not on par with it now.

“I’ll have some friends supporting me against Ding. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself again. I wasn’t going to beat myself up because I missed a couple of easy balls, which is probably what I’ve been doing. I put too much pressure on myself to play well and if you do that, there’s only one way you can go.”