Mark Allen knows he must develop a greater level of consistency as he sets his sights on becoming World champion and world number one.
Fresh from reaching the British Open final a fortnight ago, the Pistol made a strong start to his Northern Ireland Open title defence by hitting two centuries in a 4-1 victory over Chang Bingyu on Sunday.
World number 10 Allen, who lost four stone during the close season, is the joint-most decorated Irish player in history having won six ranking tournaments in his career (level with Ken Doherty).
But despite lifting the Alex Higgins trophy 12 months ago, the former Masters and Champions of Champions winner only progressed to the quarter-finals or further in five of the 17 tournaments he entered throughout the 2021-22 season.
In the latest world rankings following the British Open, Allen is £500,000 shy of the top four in Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby.
And the 36-year-old knows he must produce the goods on a more consistent basis to have any chance of potentially reaching those heights.
“I always believe in my ability; I always have done throughout my career,” he told WST.
“I think that I can get to world number one and be World champion. But I understand you can’t just play well once or twice a year to get that; I need to be become consistent.
“At that level, the likes of Selby, Trump, O’Sullivan and Robertson – I think they’re the main four who just consistently play well week in week out.
“Even if they do throw an odd bad performance in, they still find a way to win more often than not. That’s what I need to get to.”
Allen resumes his title defence when he faces Chen Zifan in the last 64 at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Monday (7pm BST).