World No. 1 Mark Allen to take shot at maiden Shanghai title

Ma Yue
World No. 1 ranked snooker player Mark Allen of Northern Ireland talks to Shanghai Daily ahead of the 2024 Shanghai Masters.
Ma Yue

World No.1 ranked snooker player Mark Allen hopes to sink his maiden Shanghai Masters title, with the annual snooker event soon starting at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium.

Running from July 15 through 21, the tournament will bring together the world's 16 top-ranked players, including four-time defending champion Ronnie "Rocket" O'Sullivan, local favorite Ding Junhui, and Northen Irish "Pistol" Mark Allen, who achieved his World No. 1 ranking in May.

"It's a career milestone," Allen told Shanghai Daily in an exclusive interview ahead of the Shanghai Masters. "I'm very happy to be there and I'll keep working hard and stay there for as long as possible."

World No. 1 Mark Allen to take shot at maiden Shanghai title

Mark Allen is currently the World No.1 ranked snooker player.

The only time Allen advanced to the final of the Shanghai tournament, which started in 2007, was a decade ago. He was defeated 3-10 by Englishman Stuart Bingham in the final of the 2014 Shanghai Masters.

"It's the first time for me to come back with a top ranking," Allen said. "Of course I want to win. It's my favorite tournament among all Chinese tournaments."

This year's Shanghai Masters will be held two months earlier than in previous years.

"It's a bit early as I usually take a break after the World Champions," Allen said. "But I've started my preparation a lot earlier, as I want to be ready for Shanghai, for one of the biggest tournaments of the year."

Allen plans to arrive in Shanghai on Saturday. As a top seed, he won't be competing before next Wednesday.

World No. 1 Mark Allen to take shot at maiden Shanghai title
Dong Jun / SHINE

Mark Allen takes on Ding Junhui during the 2018 Shanghai Masters.

"I'll have time to tour around the city, do some practice, and catch up with some friends," he said. "I like the city, it's the most Western-style city in China with good food, friendly people and nice venue."

Allen said he always enjoyed playing against local players, including Ding, during the Shanghai Masters.

"The atmosphere was always good. Playing against Ding in China is like playing against Ronnie O'Sullivan in the UK.

"There will be more (factors) surrounding the game, and there might be more pressure. But I love that, and that's what you go for – playing the biggest game in the biggest ring," he said.

China has a good mass base for billiards with its many clubs, venues, and enthusiasts.

World No. 1 Mark Allen to take shot at maiden Shanghai title

Mark Allen poses for a picture with a fan when competing in Manchester earlier this year.

The star-studded Shanghai Masters has played an important role in promoting the sport in the Yangtze River Delta region over the years.

Snooker masters including John Higgins, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, and Judd Trump have become household names. Some top players have been involved in professional-amateur competitions and interactions with youngsters during their stay in Shanghai.

Allen thinks that Shanghai snooker fans are very lucky to witness world-class clashes at home every year.

"Our Masters is always held at Alexandra Palace in London, and the Shanghai tournament is like a second Masters with the very best players in the world," he said. "The lineup of a game here could be a final of some other tournament."

World No. 1 Mark Allen to take shot at maiden Shanghai title
Dong Jun / SHINE

Ding Junhui and Ronnie O'Sullivan interact with Chinese amateur players before the start of the 2019 Shanghai Masters.

Though snooker players appear to have a longer career compared to athletes in other sports, self-discipline and constant training are still the most reliable way for them to consolidate their position in the circle.

"I train six hours every day. When the season starts, I don't really take any day off," said Allen. The 38-year-old also considers himself as being in the best age for a snooker player.

"I used to think a player would be at his best around the age of 30. But now the players are getting smarter and better, and the peak might come in their mid-30s and last till the mid-40s. I hope I will have more to offer in the next ten years."

Allen also admitted that snooker is losing the popularity it had about 10 or 15 years ago in the UK, since youngsters have more choices nowadays.

"China has been doing a great job in promoting the sport at the grassroots level. As professionals, we just try to be good role models and help the youngsters grow," Allen said.

Special Reports