The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 1

Ding kept his hopes to be at the Crucible as a seed yesterday by beating Mark Allen, and beat him comprehensively.

Here is the report by WST:

Top Seed Allen Floored By Ding

Ding Junhui, who earned a place in the Duelbits Tour Championship by the narrowest of margins, knocked out top seed Mark Allen by a 10-5 scoreline, boosting his hopes of a Crucible berth.

China’s Ding would have missed out on a place in Hull if Gary Wilson had won one more frame at last week’s WST Classic, but Wilson’s 5-4 semi-final defeat against Pang Junxu meant that he finished just £500 behind Ding on the one-year ranking list. So Ding progressed to this week’s elite eight-man event for the first time, and took full advantage with a fine display against Allen, making a century and nine more breaks over 50.

The result means that if Ryan Day loses to Mark Selby on Thursday, Ding will be among the top 16 seeded players at the Crucible next month. If Day wins, then Ding would need to win one more match. He’ll face Ali Carter or Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals on Friday.

Today’s tussle was a repeat of November’s UK Championship final, which Allen won 10-7. The Northern Irishman has landed three titles this season, though has suffered a dip in form in recent weeks, and in fact it was Ding who came into the tie with a more recent taste of silverware, having won the Six Red World Championship this month.

From 2-0 down, Ding took five of the next six frames in the first session to open up a 5-3 lead. That soon became 6-3 as he made a break of 91 in the first frame of the evening session, then he stole a crucial tenth frame by clearing from the last red. Allen might have pulled one back but missed the final green to a centre pocket in the 11th and again Ding punished him for 8-3.

Allen took two of the next three frames to restore some respectability to the scoreline at 9-5, but Ding then wrapped up the result with a run of 95.

I played well all day, I was very focussed and took my chances well,” said 35-year-old Ding.” I was fighting hard. Winning the Six Red has given me confidence. It’s great to win a match like this. Mark might be tired because he has won so many tournaments. If he had played tonight like he did in the UK Championship second session I would have been in big trouble. He had big chances and it could have been different if he had taken them.

I am not focussed on the Crucible. I am just trying to win more matches to get in to the top 16, but it doesn’t matter whether that happens fast or slowly. I am just happy to win the match today.”

Allen, who could have gone to the top of the world rankings for the first time in his career if he had won the tournament, said: “It’s disappointing, I didn’t play my best stuff. It was a bad day at the office. I wasn’t good enough, you get days like that. Credit to Ding because he scored better than me and looked more composed. There’s no need to panic, I have had a great season, there’s a lot to be positive about. I will get ready for Sheffield now. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of animal I can be at the Crucible this time after such a good season.”

And, after the match, Stephen Hendry had his say on Allen’s performance, as reported by Phil Haigh

Stephen Hendry offers Mark Allen advice over form concerns ahead of Crucible

Phil Haigh Tuesday 28 Mar 2023 12:49 am

2023 Betvictor Welsh Open - Day 3
Mark Allen turned in a disappointing performance in defeat to Ding Junhui (Picture: Getty Images)

Stephen Hendry feels Mark Allen is struggling with a lack of break-building and a shortage of intensity and he must rectify both problems to challenge for the World Championship title this year.

Allen came into the Tour Championship this week as the number one seed thanks to his three ranking title wins this season, however, his challenge in Hull did not last long.

Ding Junhui played very well, but the Northern Irishman was not great in a 10-5 loss to the Chinese star which saw him head home on the opening night of the tournament.

After a superb season so far there has been plenty of talk of a first world title for the Pistol, but Hendry is concerned over the significant drop off in his scoring power of late.

Allen has made 40 tons this season, but none in his last nine matches, the last coming in a first round win over Alfie Burden in the Welsh Open on 13 February.

The Pistol won that match and has won five matches since then, so it does not mean disaster, but Hendry says it will be worrying him it must be fixed if he is to challenge in Sheffield.

Speaking after the defeat to Ding, Hendry told ITV4: ‘He [Ding] was by far the heavier scorer of the two players, Mark Allen just didn’t have it. His scoring has deserted him at the worst part of the season, you have to say

Really disappointing performance from him, but credit to Ding, he just kept on scoring. 50s, 60s all day.

You’ve got to try and forget it and get back to the practice table. His scoring will worry him because that’s what he’s known for and this season he’s scored prolifically with century breaks.

If I was him I’d solely practice between now and Sheffield clearing the table every time. Get that break-building back.’

Hendry feels that the demeanour of the UK champion must also change, wanting to see a fiery Allen at the table once again.

His general manner round the table is not the Mark Allen we know, he’s usually an intense looking character,’ said the seven-time world champ. ‘He looks subdued a wee bit, I’d like to see that fire in his belly a bit more.’

2023 World Grand Prix
Allen has had an immense season, but is not at top form right now (Picture: Getty Images)

Alan McManus was also on punditry duty on ITV and had some more advice for Allen, saying he must loosen up to find his best form.

Mark was a little bit unfortunate, but you’ve got to score in one visit and that takes luck out of the equation,’ said Angles.

His method right now…he’s playing with tight shoulders, you can’t do that. You have to play with freedom in the shoulders to deliver through the ball. He decelerated three or four times today and that’s a concern.

Allen was unflustered after the loss, disappointed with how he played, but refusing to panic after a fine season and before the biggest event of the campaign.

Started alright, first two frames were decent, missed a tricky red in frame three and everything started to go wrong,’ said the world number three.

You’re playing the best players in the world on current form, so if you don’t play well in this tournament you’re going to get beat it’s that simple.

It’s not a time for me to panic, I’ll go home practice hard and get ready for Sheffield now.

Speaking to WST, Allen said he would find a rapid way to get over the game, and it would come in liquid form.

I’m going to get very drunk tonight because that was a really poor performance today,’ he said.

I feel like I prepared really well, behaved myself, practicing hard, got in the gym and that was a performance I wasn’t expecting because the last few days in practice have been really good.

I’m going to have a well earned drink tonight and then back to the practice table.

Hopefully I get really, really drunk and can’t remember it.

I’m really happy to see Ding playing well again. As for Mark Allen, he was poor on the day and I hope for his sake that his plans of getting really, really drunk were just something he expressed in jest because going back to bad habits will not help him going forward and regaining his form.

Today we have Kyren Wilson vs Ali Carter. If I’m being honest, this is a match that doesn’t excite me at all. I have met Kyren and his family and I like him, but I’m not particularly thrilled by his game. As for Ali… he’s a very good player and someone who has gone through a lot but I’m not a fan of the person he is, at least not of his public persona.

Meanwhile on social media…

David Hendon may say that everyone has to work together and all but it isn’t that easy …

Yesterday Kan Doherty came back on the subject of “that meeting” claiming that players had got ample prior notice. I asked him how much prior notice and his answer was “probably 4 weeks“. To that Jason Francis answered giving the exact date when his players – Ronnie and Reanne – had got the mail. That was just 7 days before the meeting, not four weeks. Ken didn’t reply to that, he didn’t deny it, maybe he didn’t see Jason’s answer … I’m not sure. Jason suggested that probably the members of the board indeed knew much earlier than the other players when that meeting was scheduled. But why? Either someone didn’t do their job, or they waited until late to inform the players, which inevitably raises questions about possible ulterior motives.

Yes, almost all players were due in Leicester for the WST Classic, however only about one third of them were due to play on the first day. Those who played on the first day had likely booked accommodations for the night before, but not the others. This was, for all players but eight, the last ranking tournament before the World Championship, therefore it was particularly important. They almost certainly had a practice program they intended to follow, maybe practice matches booked with partners. Going to Leicester, for most, would have meant, booking additional accommodations last minute and disrupting their preparation. From what Lewis, who went to watch, said , it’s a small venue. Shortage of practice opportunities on site at tournaments has been a regular complaint by players for years. So no, it’s not “beggars belief” that most chose not to go, it was to be fully expected… which inevitably, again, raises questions about possible ulterior motives.

Zoom or other ways to attend remotely were refused. Shaun Murphy said it’s because players could record the meeting and then share on social media. Right. What would prevent someone to be in person at the meeting with a mini recorder in their pocket? Just make it clear to the players, and their managers, that there will be serious consequences for whoever breaches the confidentiality of the meetings.

And, last thing, the media went to speak to Mark Selby who criticised Ronnie, and others, for not attending the meeting. Well, Mark, it was easy for you as you live in Leicester. Disruption of your preparation. if any was minimal. Would you have gone if it was held in London? Maybe… or maybe not.

Ok This is the last I’ll say about this topic unless new elements come to light

One thought on “The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 1

  1. My personal view on Allen is he’s put so much in to playing % snooker that he’s loosing confidence match by match in what he does best, scoring. Neil Robertson has suffered from that in the Past.

    The Likes of Higgins and Selby can flick between both Games at will but its not as easy as that as Mark is now Finding out

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