RICKY Walden admitted he was delighted with an early birthday present of a third ranking title success and a China hat-trick.
The 31-year-old from Chester beat Mark Allen 10-7 in the International Championship final in Chengdu, finding his best when it mattered most from 7-7.
Walden surged clear like a thoroughbred with breaks of 85, 103, 54 and 62 to chalk up the biggest win of his career to date.
And victory also maintained his enviable record of never having lost a major final after lifting the trophy previously in Shanghai and Wuxi.
As with Walden, Northern Ireland’s Allen, 28, had also been going for a third major success in China and must now regroup for this week’s Champion of Champions in Coventry and then the UK Championships in York. Ironically the pair clash again at the Ricoh Arena on Friday.
World No11 Walden, who turns 32 on November 11, said: “I am very, very pleased with that – it was a tough game against Mark and I was so happy to get that winning frame.
“It is an early birthday present for me with that coming up in a few days, and I played really well in the second session after being 5-4 down.
“That is three ranking titles for me in China now, it is a very lucky place having won all three out here in the Far East – and I still haven’t lost a major final.
“I’m sure my wife will have some ideas as to what to do with the money but for me it is about having the trophy first, and the money is a bonus.”
Allen, who will rise to a career-high No6 this week, was appearing in his fourth straight final but the losses here and in Shanghai in September have hurt him.
He said: “I may look back in a few months and think it has been a good start to the season – but that is not the way I feel now.
“I have lost three of the four finals I have got to and it is not good enough really, I don’t come to these tournaments to finish second.
“I didn’t play my best in the final, not the way I had been playing all week, or score as heavily as I had been. I see this right now as another disappointing final loss.
“I am obviously doing something right, but just have to work a little harder to turn this into wins. But Ricky produced very impressive snooker to win it at the end.
“Ricky and I have to play each other again at the Champion of Champions later this week, although that is only a best-of-seven frame match – but I’ll look to win that one.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos