MARK ALLEN was pipped at the post in Riga but crossed the finish line in first place in Furth, winning the Paul Hunter Classic with a 4-2 victory over Judd Trump tonight.
This was not the classic, high quality final between two great talents many had anticipated. Tiredness after a long few days of snooker was clear and they both struggled with conditions on a lightning fast table which was at times plagued by kicks and excessively springy bounces.
But Allen is a battler and he dug deep to get the result, ending the match with his highest break, 88. He had lost 4-3 to Mark Selby in the first European Tour final of the campaign in Latvia two weeks ago.
So he will comfortably qualify for the Players Championship finals next March and, as another bonus, will also feature in November’s Champion of Champions event in Coventry.
A ferocious talent, he nevertheless doesn’t carried away with success. He was honest enough to concede that he is not currently producing his best ever snooker but is right to take the fact that he can still win titles and reach finals at this level as a positive.
Even the great players have known that you can’t afford to rest on your laurels and think there’s no more work to be done. There are always hungry rivals around, determined to take advantage if you slip-up.
For Allen now the aim must surely be to win a really big title. He has triumphed at the World Open twice and now has four European Tour trophies to his name. A challenge at the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship – the three tournaments which define careers – is what he needs.
As for the tournament, the German snooker public once again turned out in force and gave enthusiastic support to an event named in honour of a popular, much missed player.
Among the highlights was Aditya Mehta’s 147 break on Friday and a formidable performance from Rod Lawler, who laboured until 3.30am to win his last 32 match on Saturday before coming back at 10am on Sunday to win two more matches and reach the semi-finals. Lawler then ran Allen all the way to 4-3 to just miss out on a place in the final.
We saw some surprise defeats today for Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson [to Tian Pengfei and Dechawat Poomjaeng respectively] but top players are vulnerable in best of sevens, particularly away from the TV cameras.
These events are hard fought, full of close and tense matches and very difficult to win. That Mark Allen has done so must surely give him confidence for the long season still to come.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.