Lisowski Riding High On Shanghai Form

King Relishing Belfast Title Defence

King’s victory last year saw him become the first name on the brand new Alex Higgins Trophy

Mark King will enter an event as defending champion for the first time at next week’s Northern Ireland Open at the Belfast Waterfront.

The Romford potter won his maiden ranking crown in 2016 after 26 seasons as a professional. He scored an emotional 9-8 defeat of Barry Hawkins to lift the title.

King admits that it will be a unique experience defending a title for the first time, but the 43-year-old is going to savour it.

“Going back to Belfast is going to be great and it will bring back all the memories of last year and the trophy. It is going to be weird coming into the event as reigning champion and something that I never thought I would do,” said the world number 21. “I’m just excited. There are so many tournaments nowadays, every event you want to go there and win, so I’m excited to go over there and give it a go.”

The dramatic victory over Hawkins will live long in the memory and was named Magic Moment at the 2017 World Snooker Awards. However, King is keen to use his first title as a source of motivation to push for further honours.

King said: “It was a surreal moment when I potted the green and realised I had done it. I was waiting for the family to come out and everything I had dreamed of and visualised in my mind over the years had finally happened. It was an unbelievable achievement and an unbelievable feeling.

“Now I just want more of it. More moments like that. It is just a case of getting my head down, working hard and seeing what happens. I don’t want to be one of those players who just won one title and that was it. I just want to keep striving to do better.

“The feeling getting up the next day was incredible. For the first time I woke up and travelled home without having to think whether I should have approached a match differently. Across that week I was the best player and I came out on top.”

Tickets are still available for the Northern Ireland Open, which runs from November 20 to 26 and features top stars such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Allen, John Higgins and Judd Trump. For more info click here or call 028 9033 4455 to book.