Hawk Makes Flying Start In Sheffield

Allen Wins To Boost Crucible Hopes

Mark Allen scored a crucial 6-1 win over Noppon Saengkham on day one of the Fuhua Group China Open in Beijing to improve his chances of  an automatic Crucible berth.

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Only the top 16 seeds at the end of this week’s tournament are sure of a place in the final stages of the Betfred World Championship, which start on April 21. Defeat for Allen today would have left him outside the top 16, but he now moves up to 15th. And that result means Ryan Day will have to win three qualifying matches at the English Institute of Sport to make it to the Crucible. For the latest on that race CLICK HERE

Masters champion Allen fired breaks of 68, 50, 105, 138, 102 and 98 as he stormed into the last 32. “I’m very happy with the way I scored today,” said Allen, who now meets Kurt Maflin or Yan Bingtao.

“I’m not usually one to follow the rankings closely, but it’s hard to avoid it when we’re coming up to Sheffield and people are in my ear saying what I need to do. It’s still possible I will have to qualify, but I am in a far better position now after winning that match. I’m here to win the tournament and that’s all I can concentrate on.

“Today was as good as I have scored since the Masters. Noppon is a very good player so it’s nice to get a win under my belt, especially as it was tough to come here knowing I had to win.”

Luca Brecel’s Crucible spot is not yet guaranteed as he lost 6-4 to China’s Cao Yupeng, whose top break was 135. Ali Carter must also rely on other results as he went down 6-4 to former China Open finalist Gary Wilson.

Ronnie O’Sullivan could become the first player ever to earn £1 million in prize money in a single season if he goes all the way to the £225,000 top prize this week, and he started strongly with a 6-2 defeat of Ross Muir. Runs of 110, 67, 64 and 84 helped O’Sullivan into the last 64.

“It was difficult for Ross today because he’s not used to the TV table so there was more pressure on him than me,” said O’Sullivan, whose next opponent is Elliot Slessor. “I don’t play snooker for the money, but for some of the other players this is a big opportunity to earn a lot.”

Asked about the mistakes he made during the match, O’Sullivan joked: “I felt very angry, I wanted to smash my cue into a thousand pieces, but with so many people watching I thought I’d better be good.”

World Champion Mark Selby came from 2-0 down to beat Wang Yuchen 6-4 with a top break of 87 while home favourite Ding Junhui top scored with 91 in a 6-2 defeat of Michael Georgiou. Stuart Bingham came from 5-3 down to edge out Matthew Stevens 6-5.