MARK ALLEN proved his fighting qualities by shrugging off ill health to reach the second round of the Dafabet World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Wednesday.
Allen resumed leading Michael Holt 5-4 and wrapped up a 10-4 victory to advance to the last 16, where he will face world no.1 Neil Robertson or Robbie Williams.
But the Northern Irishman’s preparation for the tournament was seriously affected by a bout of food poisoning, which left him seeking medical treatment shortly before the first session.
Allen said: “I’ve had a bit of food poisoning and haven’t been feeling too good for a few days. I didn’t want to say anything before I played because I didn’t want it to look like I was making excuses. But at times when I was playing I couldn’t see the balls.
“The last few days I’ve felt dreadful and an hour and a half before the match yesterday I was in an NHS walk-in centre trying to get treatment. I felt so drained. I spent all day Sunday throwing up and had no energy. I’ve been taking sugar-salt drinks to get fluids back into my body. I couldn’t see anything over three feet away so I had to guess but I wasn’t going to pull out. It’s the World Championship and you’d have to scrape me off the table.”
Allen is through to the last 16 of the game’s premier event for the first time since 2011 after shock first round exits to Cao Yupeng and Mark King in the last two years.
He said: “I haven’t been mentally prepared enough for what Sheffield brings. I’ve tried to treat it like every other tournament – but it’s not. You come here and the pressure is so different. Everyone is talking about snooker leading up to it, it’s a massive event and I haven’t been mentally ready for how to handle disappointments during games. Terry Griffiths tried to get me to look back at the last two years and how I felt during matches when things weren’t going well and to not let that happen again, and I did that.
“It’s a weird experience sitting here as a first round winner because it’s been three years. I just had to make the most of it here and get through the first round. I’ll have to be much better in the next round but I’m through.
“Only snooker players can describe what it’s like to play at the Crucible. It’s probably a bit like an England player walking out at Wembley.”
The big frame of the night was the 11th, in which Holt attempted to double the final black. He missed and was unlucky to get a kiss which left a pot on, after which Allen pulled away.
Holt said: “It’s heartbreak to go out there and play the worst you can play, and it kills you after a while. I’ll look forward to the next one and come back stronger.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.