Mark King looks forward to defending Northern Ireland Open title

King ended a 25-year wait for a ranking title when he beat Barry Hawkins in Belfast last year
King ended a 25-year wait for a ranking title when he beat Barry Hawkins in Belfast last year

Mark King hopes to repeat the 'surreal moment' he felt last year as he attempts to defend the Northern Ireland Open.

The Englishman beat Barry Hawkins in a thrilling 2016 final to register the first ranking title of his career.

King, 43, will begin his title defence against Matthew Bolton on 20 November.

"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.

"It was a surreal moment when I potted the green and realised I had done it," King added.

"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."

Strong field

Home favourite Mark Allen is still seeking his first Northern Ireland Open win and he will also start his challenge on the opening day when he faces Sanderson Lam.

The Antrim player has moved up five places up the world rankings to sixth after finishing runner-up to Mark Selby in the International Open in China.

Five-times world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan faces Lukas Kleckers in his opener a day later.

Judd Trump takes on Stuart Carrington and John Higgins meets Nigel Bond.

Those two matches are also on 21 November while world number five Shaun Murphy starts a day earlier against Chen Zifan.

Neil Robertson, Joe Swail and Jimmy White are among the other top players competing in the Waterfront Hall tournament from 20-26 November.

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