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2020 Masters - 1st round discussion

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  • 2020 Masters - 1st round discussion

    So, the Masters starts today...

    It's one of my favourites events of the season, with proper matches and a world-class field. Even with the absence of Ronnie O'Sullivan, I think it's still a stronger field than the Champion of Champions was, as 13 of the 16 players here have won major events in their career, and most of them have done so in the fairly recent past. Let's have a look at how the draw has worked out...

    Quarter 1:

    Judd Trump v. Shaun Murphy
    Ding Junhui v. Joe Perry

    Surely the strongest quarter of the draw, at least in the context of the current season. Judd Trump against Shaun Murphy is a repeat of the International Championship final from August, which Trump won convincingly, before adding further titles in the World Open and the Northern Ireland Open. That means he now holds six titles at the same time, four of them outside of the short format, and the job of trying to defend them start this week with the Masters. And it starts with a very high obstacle, because Murphy is the toughest opponent any one of the top8 seeds could have drawn in the 1st round here. Murphy has had quite a successful season himself up to this point, winning his biggest title in more than four years in the China Championship. He tends to have extended periods of mediocre results where he goes out early in most events, but this season has seen much more consistent form from him. It's a harsh draw for him as well though. Trump actually plays quite a similar game to Murphy, but he plays it to a higher standard at the moment, and he has the much better record between them as well.

    Ding Junhui adds some more quality to this part of the draw. Two months ago he wouldn't have done, because his start to the season saw him continuing the struggles from the last one, but winning the UK Championship with a superb performance surely makes him a contender in any event for the remainder of the season. This doesn't seem to be his favourite venue though, with six 1st round exits in eight years since the tournament was moved to Alexandra Palace. Joe Perry returns to the venue for the first time since reaching the final here in 2017. He has amassed quite a few Masters appearances over the years, but he has almost always gone out at the first time of asking. 2015 was one of the exceptions though, and Ding was his 1st round opponent that time. He also beat Ding here in 2017, but lost to him way back in 2004 when Ding was only 16. As solid as Perry is, I think this pairing will mainly come down to how well Ding plays, because he is still one of the best players in the world when he plays properly, but at the same time very beatable when he puts in one of his "disinterested" performances.

    I would actually quite like to see Ding play Trump in the QF here. Their match at the Crucible last year was a little disappointing, and Ding can consider it a missed opportunity after throwing away his lead in the final session. Historically he has played quite well against Trump though, even dominating some of their matches on the big stage. That said, Trump is definitely a strong player now than he was a year or two ago. Ding's record against Murphy on the other hand is not so good, so he might be one of the very few players who would prefer to play Trump here. I'm going with Trump to reach the SF in this section.

    Quarter 2:

    Mark Selby v. Ali Carter
    John Higgins v. Barry Hawkins

    Mark Selby is another one of this season's strong performers and the winner of the most recent event, but the really big titles have eluded him for the past year and a bit. He is one of the most successful players in the history of this tournament though, having won it three times in the past. His record in the closing stages of tournaments has been quite spectacular for some time now, so the first couple of matches are usually where he is the most vulnerable. I think he will like this particular draw though, because he has only ever lost to Ali Carter once in a match of any great importance. Carter is the 16th seed here, so he is the player who benefitted from O'Sullivan not entering the event. Pretty timely for him as well, because he has lost in the early rounds of every single event so far this season, so his ranking is most likely going to drop a little over the next couple of months. I'm not really sure if can play any great part in this event, but it wouldn't be fair to consider him a complete outsider either.

    John Higgins against Barry Hawkins could be an entertaining 1st round match here. The last time they played was in the Shanghai Masters this season, and Hawkins won that one 6-5 on the final black. Considering they are both in their 40s now and have been top players for a long time, they have actually met relatively few times outside of the short format over the years. I'm not sure who to favour here. Higgins has done better in the major events this season, but he hasn't actually won any titles since beating Hawkins in the Welsh Open final two years ago, while Hawkins has mostly struggled this season, but at least managed to pick up a trophy in the Paul Hunter Classic, for whatever that's worth. This will be Higgins' 26th consecutive appearance in the Masters, but the previous 25 actually saw him lose his opening match on 13 occasions, which is surprising for a player of his class. He won this event in 2006, the last time it was held at the Wembley Conference Centre, but since then he hasn't really come close. Hawkins did reach the final four years ago, losing very heavily to O'Sullivan, and he came close to doing so the following year as well, throwing away a winning position against Perry in the semi-finals.

    Whoever comes through, I think he would potentially have a tough job of overcoming Selby in the quarter-finals. Hawkins actually has a surprisingly strong record against Selby, although he did lose the last two, while Higgins and Selby have of course enjoyed one of snooker's best rivalries in the past 13 years or so, culminating in two World finals between them. The last time they met was in November, in the match where Selby famously took over six minutes to play one shot, but Higgins did prevail with a century in the decider on that occasion. I think Selby is the man to beat here though.

    Quarter 3:

    Neil Robertson v. Stephen Maguire
    Mark Allen v. David Gilbert

    And speaking of great rivalries, Neil Robertson and Stephen Maguire used to play each other a lot when Maguire was still a top8 player, but not so much in the more recent past. Maguire has the much better record, so I think this is one of the matches where the higher seed could be in trouble. Maguire has prevailed in all three of their previous meetings in the Masters, including in 2009 when they finished the match with five centuries in a row between them, although it's worth remembering that the table was unusually generous that year. Well, that wasn't the case in the UK Championship last month, which also saw five centuries in the last six frames of the final, in what was a welcome return to form for Maguire. If the UK Championship is traditionally his strongest tournament, he still has something to prove in the Masters, because the best he has managed so far are four runs to the SF, three of which he lost to O'Sullivan, including a really poor match in 2007 which was really there for the taking. Robertson's record, on the other hand, includes a title and another two finals, and even more encouraging is the fact that he has only lost in the 1st round proper two times in twelve attempts. As for current form, Robertson somehow gives the impression of being the more consistent player of the two, but on closer inspection he is yet to reach the QF of any event that carries ranking points this season, so things haven't been going as well as he would have hoped for.

    By contrast, Mark Allen genuinely is a model of consistency, with four runs to the SF of ranking events, as well as SF appearances in both notable invitational events so far this season, but he is yet to reach a final. At this stage of his career he should really be looking to win titles, which of course he did last season. A year ago he was defending champion in this event and lost in the 1st round, so I'm sure he will be looking to put things right this week. And he is kind of under pressure to do so, because losing in the qualifiers in both of the two upcoming ranking events definitely didn't help his cause. David Gilbert lost in both as well, both times against Jordan Brown, which was a setback in an otherwise pretty strong and consistent season. He is the only debutant in the field this year, but he has qualified quite comfortably as the 11th seed, so you can't really say he is out of place here. He is genuinely playing at the level where he can beat anyone in the world on his day, and of course he did beat Allen the last time they played, in the World Open earlier this season.

    I guess the most intriguing QF match here would be Robertson against Allen, as the two have met on the big stage more times than all the other pairings combined, and they've generally been good matches. But then again, Maguire's 6-0 win over Allen in the semi-finals of the UK Championship last month was one of the all-time great thrashings, so I'm sure Allen would be motivated to get some revenge here, which could result in an interesting match. As for which scenario I think is the most likely, I would probably go for Maguire to beat Robertson, but Allen to ultimately go through to the semi-finals from this section.

    Quarter 4:

    Kyren Wilson v. Jack Lisowski
    Mark Williams v. Stuart Bingham

    The bottom quarter is perhaps a little weaker than the other three, especially compared to the first and the third, but it still promises to deliver some interesting snooker. Kyren Wilson should be favourite to beat Jack Lisowski on paper, but Lisowski actually has a surprisingly good record against him, apart from their last meeting in the World Open this season, where Wilson played superbly to win 5-1. I don't know... Wilson's season has been solid but unspectacular, which I suppose is not really good enough for a player I was expecting to be challenging for the big titles by now. This is the kind of format and atmosphere he should do really well in, so I'm hoping we see something like the kind of snooker he played here two years ago, and the kind he played to win the German Masters last season. That's a title he won't be successfully defending by the way, having already lost in the qualifiers, which I suppose is not a good sign ahead of this week. Well, Lisowski is already out of the two upcoming ranking events as well, which must be bitterly disappointing for him after having done so well to get to the Scottish Open final. Could be a close match here, but experience is on Wilson's side.

    I think Mark Williams as the 2nd seed is one of the least realistic seedings here, because his recent results are more like something you would expect from a player towards the bottom of the top16. He is not even playing in a lot of events, and his one and only good result this season is the run to the final of the China Championship which, to be fair, he came within a frame of winning. I don't know how much great snooker he still has left in him, but I don't have any great confidence in him at the moment. Stuart Bingham has actually not done all that well himself this season, although he seems to play quite well any time I see him on TV. He is another one from that group of players who got caught out in the recent qualifiers, so his form is definitely in question at the moment as well. To make matters worse, his Masters record is just dreadful. It's interesting that Williams and Bingham have only ever met four times outside of the short format, despite being on the tour together for more than 20 years now. The match that stands out is of course the 2011 Australian Open final, which saw Bingham come back from behind to win 9-8, but I can't imagine that result will have any influence on what happens here.

    Of all the quarters of the draw, I think this one is probably the most likely to be won by a player not playing all that well, but I do hope I am wrong about that. Of course it would be tremendous if all the players raised their games to the kind of level we know they are capable of. I think Wilson is the most likely to do that, with Bingham a close second.

    Possible SF line-up:

    Judd Trump v. Mark Selby
    Mark Allen v. Kyren Wilson


    There we are, I kept it reasonably brief this time. And my apologies if there is any nonsense in there, but I did write half of it drunk. Should be a great week of snooker whatever happens.

  • #2
    I didn't know why , but I am not feeling the event this year . Maybe I like to see the so called lesser lights of the game up against the elite .

    Or is it the absence of Ronnie
    Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !

    Comment


    • #3
      here we go, feels a long time waiting
      Up the TSF!

      Comment


      • #4
        Looking forward to a good week of quality snooker.

        Comment


        • #5
          first ?100 for the Aussie fire cause from Robbo
          Up the TSF!

          Comment


          • #6
            Very strange main camera view. The baulk cushion appears wider than the black cushion
            "Kryten, isn't it round about this time of year that your head goes back to the lab for retuning?"

            Comment


            • #7
              I had the exact same feeling at the start of the first frame...

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by daffie View Post
                I had the exact same feeling at the start of the first frame...
                I don’t event know how it’s possible. The camera has to be closer to the black cushion, so how can the baulk cushion appear wider?

                And yet it’s not. If you look how close the black cushion corner pockets are to the edge of your tv screen, and do the same with the baulk pockets, the black cushion is clearly wider.

                Optical illusion.
                Last edited by Billy; 12th January 2020, 03:20 PM.
                "Kryten, isn't it round about this time of year that your head goes back to the lab for retuning?"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Billy View Post

                  I don’t event know how it’s possible. The camera has to be closer to the black cushion, so how can the baulk cushion appear wider?

                  And yet it’s not. If you look how close the black cushion corner pockets are to the edge of your tv screen, and do the same with the baulk pockets, the black cushion is clearly wider.

                  Optical illusion.
                  Optical Illusion
                  the width of screen showing carpet is wider at the baulk end than the black end.
                  I think as they have got the sides of the table appearing to be vertical, the illusion is that they appear to go outwards
                  Up the TSF!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I suspect all these little pieces we’re seeing from Alan McManus are repeats from previous events (I’m sure I’ve seen them before). I wonder if he gets paid for them again.
                    "Kryten, isn't it round about this time of year that your head goes back to the lab for retuning?"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Sad to see Ronnie sitting on the green couch beside Jimmy White . He should be leaning over the green baize

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If Carter’s waistcoat wasn’t touching that black he was cueng over just now, then I’m a monkey’s uncle!!

                        For the ref to not see that I can only assume he wasn’t watching!
                        "Kryten, isn't it round about this time of year that your head goes back to the lab for retuning?"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Billy View Post
                          If Carter’s waistcoat wasn’t touching that black he was cueng over just now, then I’m a monkey’s uncle!!

                          For the ref to not see that I can only assume he wasn’t watching!
                          I thought the same. The camera angle seemed to indicate it was very close.
                          www.mixcloud.com/jfd

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Unexpected results today, but then again, we've often seen players who had played well just before new year go out in the 1st round of the Masters.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MrRottweiler View Post

                              I thought the same. The camera angle seemed to indicate it was very close.
                              A lot of the time it’s misleading because the ball is to the far side of the player’s torso, but in this instance the black was right in the middle. It’s all academic ow but I’d bet me left bollock his waistcoat was touching the black.
                              "Kryten, isn't it round about this time of year that your head goes back to the lab for retuning?"

                              Comment

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