Mark Allen was sent home early from the Snooker Championship League and admitted he dreads the prospect of walking out at an empty World Championships next month.
The Belfast 34-year-old beat veteran Nigel Bond 3-1 in his opening match in the Championship League in Milton Keynes but failed to make it out of Group 11 on frame difference.
A break of 62 for Martin O’Donnell in the fourth match helped him seal a 2-2 draw, meaning Allen’s dropped frames against Bond and Michael White proved costly.
Earlier in the day, Allen praised organisers for bringing the sport back so swiftly amid the pandemic but admitted he did not like the idea of having to continue in the sterile atmosphere all the way to the Crucible.
A post shared by Mark Allen (@thepistol147) on Jun 8, 2020 at 4:16am PDT
Allen told the PA news agency: “It wouldn’t be nice walking into the Crucible if it was like this.
“There’s so much on the line and the crowd normally gets involved in the matches and it can get on top of you, and I think that’s part of the game that we will miss.
“I was very surprised that they staged this tournament because I didn’t think they’d be anywhere near ready on June 1, and it just shows what a good job Barry Hearn and the team at World Snooker have done.”
In common with most of his big-name contemporaries, Allen is using the lightly-regarded format as a chance to become used to the unusual environment which he believes he will have endure for some time.
“I think the way this tournament has been set up is a sign of the times, and the next few months is going to be similar,” Allen said.
“I wanted to get used to playing behind closed doors without a crowd and having to get your own equipment. It’s a big change from what we’re used to but they’ve done an unbelievable job keeping us safe.”
Sam Craigie joined O’Donnell in the next round, topping Group 6 with an outstanding performance against more experienced opponents led by top seed Ali Carter.
Craigie drew 2-2 with Carter, after losing a two-frame advantage, having already eased to a 3-0 win over Matt Selt in his opening match.
Dominic Dale also took four points from his first two visits and could have sneaked through with a 3-1 win over Craigie in the decider, only for the latter to win two frames in a row to secure his place.