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2017 Masters

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  • 2017 Masters

    My second favourite tournament on the calendar. How do we see this one going?

    I haven't got a clue and think there's 5 or 6 players who can win it... I'd like to see Kyren Wilson do it though

    Look forward to Odrl's legendary preview
    Favourite players: Kirk Stevens, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ding Junhui

  • #2
    Does it start today or tomorrow?


    • #3
      2017 Masters

      1 pm UK tomorrow
      BBC and BBC Red Button on sky 980 for live non-studio
      Eurosport as well
      Up the TSF!


      • #4
        Yep, starts tomorrow.

        The defending champion has a fairly tough draw this year IMO. Really looking forward to it.

        The fast and the furious,
        The slow and labourious,
        All of us, glorious parts of the whole!


        • #5
          Should be some really top class matches. First time all 16 entrants have won a ranking tournament each.

          Bingham has a baby due so I suspect his attention will be elsewhere. I think it is an important tournament for Ronnie who has always done well in the Masters and the big bbc events and needs to prove he is not in terminal decline.


          • #6
            Where's Odrl


            • #7
              Originally posted by motorhead View Post
              Where's Odrl
              He's the one in the red and white stripped top with a bobble hat on
              Up the TSF!


              • #8
                Okay, here we go...

                The Masters marks the start of the second half of the season, and unfortunately stands out as one of the very few events with matches longer than best-of-7 still remaining. It has always been one of my favourite events, a world-class field without any real outsiders, and all of it televised. The standard of play can vary of course. On one hand, we have 16 players who are probably among the 20 or so best players in the world, so all of them are capable of playing great stuff on their day, but on the other hand, it often happens that some players come to this event in poor form, and there are no qualifiers to filter those players out.

                It's a one-table setup, so it will also be interesting to see how the table plays. I remember Joe Johnson saying in commentary a few years ago that the Masters was always known for having one of the tightest tables back when he was playing. These days the tables in the BBC events tend to be on the generous side, the 2009 edition being particularly memorable in that regard, but of course it can differ quite dramatically from year to year. In any case, the conditions will be the same for everyone.

                Let's see what the draw looks like...

                Quarter 1:

                Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Liang Wenbo
                Neil Robertson v. Allister Carter

                We start with a very interesting quarter. Ronnie O'Sullivan is the most successful player in the history of the Masters, having played in the final on eleven occasions and winning it six times, with an impressive 21-year gap between his first and his most recent title. He is no stranger to being the defending champion here, but it's worth noting that he has never actually succeeded in defending this title before. It's also close to a year since he last won any title of note, although he has come close a few times this season, losing in three finals against in-form players. Liang Wenbo has been more successful in that regard, winning the English Open this season, his biggest title to date. He was controversially denied a wildcard for this event back in 2010, so it was nice to finally see him making his debut last year. He actually played quite well against Higgins, losing 6-4 in a high-quality match. He also lost in the 1st round of both major invitationals so far this season, so this type of event hasn't brought him a lot of success yet. O'Sullivan and Liang both reached the quarter-finals of the Scottish Open in Glasgow just before new year, so this could be a good match here. O'Sullivan dominates their head-to-head, most recently beating Liang from 4-1 down in the Shanghai Masters this season, but with a title to his name I think Liang is a more formidable opponent now. It's just a question of consistency with him, he wins a match or two in most events but mostly fails to reach the business end, while O'Sullivan is a little more reliable.

                Neil Robertson had a fairly poor year by his standards in 2016. He reached the final of the Welsh Open in February, then failed to win a match in the remainder of the 2015/2016 season. He started this season with a win in Riga, but that's a relatively small event, and for that to be his only title of the year is disappointing to say the least. He also lost in the 1st round of both the UK and the World Championship in 2016. He played a little better in Glasgow, losing 4-3 to the eventual champion Fu in the last16, so perhaps his form is returning. He has a tricky opening match against Ali Carter here. People were saying it was only a matter of time before Carter returned to the top16 following his health struggles, but I have to confess I had my doubts whether he would ever fully manage it, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him winning a major title in Yushan this season. He hasn't really been close to repeating it though, and he has never been to the business end of the Masters, even when he was among the very best players in the world. He hasn't had a lot of luck against Robertson in the past either, losing most of their high-profile matches, including three long ones in the World Championship. Robertson also won 6-1 when they played in the Masters two years ago, with one of the most impressive performances we've seen in the Masters in recent years, rivalling Carter's own thrashing of Peter Ebdon back in 2009.

                The quarter-final match in this section has a couple of potentially interesting pairings, and the one that immediately stands out is O'Sullivan against Robertson. It's a bit harsh for the 1st seed to get someone like Robertson in the quarter-finals, but it's a similar situation in every quarter, and I would even argue that the 5-8 seeds are just as strong as the 1-4 seeds in this tournament. Anyway, O'Sullivan has the edge over Robertson in past meetings, but they haven't played each other as much as one would expect. Robertson won convincingly when they met in the semi-finals of this tournament two years ago, 6-1, but it was O'Sullivan who won both of their big matches in 2016. He beat Robertson 9-5 from 5-2 down in the Welsh Open final, then went on to whitewash him in the semi-finals of the European Masters as well. Normally these two players would be very well matched, but Robertson has been suspect in recent times, so I would make O'Sullivan the favourite to come through here. We could also have a repeat of the 2015 UK final in this section, if Liang comes through to play Robertson, or indeed the nightmare pairing of O'Sullivan against Carter, a rivalry in which O'Sullivan is still undefeated as far as major matches are concerned.

                Quarter 2:

                Judd Trump v. Marco Fu
                John Higgins v. Mark Allen

                A very difficult quarter to predict, with three players who have won titles this season, and another who is probably due one. Judd Trump only has a couple of semi-finals to his name in the Masters, so he still has something to prove in this event. He has one title and another final this season, as well as a run to the semi-finals in Glasgow last month, where he really should have gone on to reach the final. All of those results have come in the best-of-7 format though, while the bigger events have been less successful for him. He also seems to have lost the edge that saw him perform to a consistently high standard in October. He meets Marco Fu in the 1st round here, a former Masters finalist and the winner of the Scottish Open this season. It's been a weird season for Fu, not a single quarter-final to his name until December, but then he turned it around with strong performances in York and Glasgow. His breakbuilding was superb last month, and he could be a handful for anyone if that form is still there. While recent form gives the edge to Fu, past meetings favour Trump with his two wins over Fu in the World Championship, although Fu did win the one time they've played in the Masters.

                John Higgins is never right at the top of my list of favourites when it comes to the Masters, mainly because of how unreliable he has been in this event over the years. He has played in the Masters 22 times, losing in the 1st round on eleven occasions, even though he would have been among the higher seeds most of the time. He has been a model of consistency this season, reaching at least the quarter-finals of six events that carried ranking points, including a run to the final in Glasgow last month, where he actually started superbly and led 4-1, before running out of steam for some reason. He also won both major invitationals this season, earning roughly the equivalent of winning the World Championship in prize money. Mark Allen stands out in this section as its least successful performer this season, and he hasn't gained many fans with his off-table antics either. His record in the Masters is similar to Trumps, a couple of semi-finals in the past, so he too still has something to prove. His best results this season are the semi-finals in the two major invitational events, while his best result in the ranking events is a single quarter-final. He has beaten Higgins a couple of times in the past, including a high-quality affair in the Masters two years ago, but Higgins still has the much more impressive record, including a recent win over Allen in the UK Championship, as well as a thrashing over two sessions in the semi-finals of the China Championship this season.

                All four possible pairings in the quarter-finals would make for a great match, not least Higgins against Trump, which has been one of the best rivalries in snooker in recent years. Well, best in the sense of the quality and drama some of their matches have produced, while the winner almost always seems to be Higgins. Trump's only win over Higgins in the major events came in the English Open this season, while Higgins' many wins over Trump include a couple of ridiculous comebacks from impossible positions. He came back from 7-2 down to beat Trump 10-9 in the 2012 Shanghai Masters final, he beat him 5-4 from 4-0 down in the 2014 World Open, and 5-4 on the final black in the 2015 China Open, winning the decider from something like 59-0 down in two incredible visits. The latest in the line of crushing defeats for Trump of course came in Glasgow last month, when Trump played ridiculously well to lead 5-1, only for Higgins to come back and beat him 6-5. I don't know what it is that inspires Higgins to play so well from behind against Trump, but it's happened so many times now that it surely must have an effect on Trump's mental state whenever they meet. We could also have a repeat of the Scottish Open final between Higgins and Fu here, two players who have played each other a lot at first glance, but closer inspection reveals that most of their matches in the last decade or so have been short-format or shot-clock crap, so it would be nice to see them play each other in a proper match again. We could also have Trump against Allen, which often seems to result in an entertaining match, as well as Fu against Allen, which brings back memories of Fu's comeback from 4-1 down against Allen in the 2011 Masters, with a masterclass of breakbuilding.

                Quarter 3:

                Stuart Bingham v. Joe Perry
                Ding Junhui v. Kyren Wilson

                Perhaps the weakest quarter of the draw, probably the least likely to give us the eventual tournament winner. Still, there are a couple of strong players here, not least Stuart Bingham, the world number two. His 2015 World title contributes by far the most to his ranking, but he also deserves some credit for the consistency that has allowed him to hold it. He got to three ranking semi-finals in the first half of the season, including two major ones in Shanghai and Daqing, and he also reached the final of the invitational China Championship. The only thing really missing is a major title, or even a minor one. Could it come this week? Well, his record in the Masters was quite dreadful until last season, with 1st round exits in all of his appearances, but a run to the semi-finals a year ago has improved things slightly. Joe Perry is a similar case, only a single quarter-final appearance in the Masters, along with seven 1st round or even wildcard round exits. While one could indeed say that every player in this year's tournament has won a ranking event, at least according to World Snooker's new (and appalling) definition of what constitutes a ranking event, Perry nonetheless stands out in that respect, because his biggest title to date is a PTC with no matches longer than best-of-7. He had a chance to put that statistic right in the World Open this season, but just narrowly missed out again. Apart from that run he hasn't done a lot this season, and he seems to be going out of most events a round or two earlier that his ranking would suggest. Bingham and Perry have been professionals for a long time now, so they've played each other quite a bit, but not often over the last few years when they both seem to be playing the best snooker of their career.

                Ding Junhui is one of the seven previous winner in this year's tournament, the only one in this quarter of the draw, but I think it's still fair to say that the Masters is not his favourite event. Since winning it in 2011 he has actually lost in the 1st round for five years in a row now. He has won a major title in Shanghai this season, his first in some time, and he added a run to the final in Daqing as well, but it still seems like he is not really one of the major players this season. He is a little too inconsistent at the moment, and he seems to be skipping a lot more events than other players for some reason. Kyren Wilson is the only debutant this year, and a very tricky 1st round opponent for Ding. I'm not sure whether Wilson is happy with how his season is going. On one hand, he has only recently joined the group of major winners and top16 players, so one can't expect too much of him, and he did reach a minor final in India at the start of the season. But on the other hand, we haven't seen him at the business end of major tournaments a lot, and his 1st round exit in the UK Championship was particularly disappointing, along with his non-appearance in Daqing. That said, I would not be surprised if he prevailed over Ding here.

                Wilson actually beat both Ding and Perry on his way to winning the 2015 Shanghai Masters, so he knows he is capable of beating his opposition in this section. Of course he also beat Perry 10-9 in the 1st round at the Crucible last year, in a very dramatic finish. Apart from that, there is no particularly interesting history between the players in this quarter. Ding has a good record over Perry, and he actually beat him in the wildcard round on his Masters debut back in 2004, while Perry prevailed when they met again two years ago. It was Bingham who beat Ding here last year, and he generally has a stronger record against him than Perry does, although Ding did win when they played in the final of the 6-reds World Championship a few months back, for what that's worth...

                Quarter 4:

                Shaun Murphy v. Barry Hawkins
                Mark Selby v. Mark Williams

                An interesting quarter to conclude with. Shaun Murphy lost in the 1st round of this event last year, after four consecutive runs to the business end, including a brilliant performance to take the title in 2015. He had a period where he really struggled in the major events, losing early in almost every event outside of the short format, but he is doing better in that respect this season. That said, it's ten months since his last title of any note now, and two years since his last major one, so he is a under pressure to start winning again. Barry Hawkins has had an even longer drought, but he has managed to keep himself inside the top16 with a couple of good runs in the World Championship, as well as runs to the semi-finals of the English Open and to the final of the Northern Ireland Open this season. His record in the Masters in comparable to that of Perry and Bingham. He lost in the 1st round or the wildcard round five times in a row, before finally playing some great stuff to reach the final a year ago, although the final itself saw him produce a pretty pathetic display against O'Sullivan and ended in a 10-1 defeat. He had a similar nightmare against Murphy in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Championship, losing 17-9 in a match that could have ended with a session to spare, and he generally has a poor record against Murphy, so this match could be difficult for him.

                A lot of eyes will be on Mark Selby this week. He hasn't played in the Masters as many times as some other players, but he has already become one of its all-time great performers, with three titles and another two finals in only nine appearances. He has won arguably the two biggest events so far this season, the UK and the International Championship, the former being particularly impressive as he took on O'Sullivan in an exchange of big breaks and beat him. He also won the Paul Hunter Classic and reached the final in Shanghai this season, to further increase his lead at the top of the rankings, where he now has almost twice as many points as his nearest rival. As the reigning World champion he now holds three of what I would consider the four biggest titles in snooker, and this week is a chance for him to add the missing piece, which would make him the most dominant player we have seen in snooker since Mark Williams 13 years ago. I guess Selby was one of the two players Williams really didn't want to draw here, although traditionally he has quite a strong record against him. But of course most of those results are a little dated now, and it was Selby who won their last two matches of at least medium length and did so very convincingly, including a 6-1 victory in the Masters four years ago. Williams has found some consistency again in recent months though, and the last three events saw him reach two quarter-finals and a last16, which is an improvement on his previous struggles. His two Masters titles seem like a lifetime ago now... Can he be a threat again?

                The quarter-final match in this section could be good as well, especially if it's Selby against Murphy. These two have probably met more times than any other pairing of their generation, and they've had some really good matches. They've had a couple of anti-climactic ones as well though, including a rather underwhelming 6-2 victory for Selby in the semi-finals of the UK Championship last month. As for the Masters, it's actually 2-1 in favour of Murphy, including a 6-5 win the 1st round two years ago, when Selby just narrowly missed out on a comeback from 5-1 down. Hawkins has also been known to cause problems for Selby in the past, not least by beating him in back-to-back World Championships in 2012 and 2013. Murphy and Williams have unfortunately avoided each other in recent years and haven't met in a big match since 2010, but I'm sure most people will remember the two great matches they played that year, Williams beating Murphy in both the Masters and the UK Championship. That only leaves the Williams-Hawkins pairing, perhaps the least interesting possibility in this quarter, especially as Hawkins' record against Williams is quite dreadful, although they've mostly met in the minor events. Normally I would mention how the UK champions and finalists tend to struggle in the Masters the following month, but it seems a bit redundant here, because Selby is the one player who has managed to do the double since the Mastery was moved to January, and he seems virtually immune to any fatigue, either physical or mental.

                Possible SF line-up:

                Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Judd Trump
                Stuart Bingham v. Mark Selby

                So there we are, I can't think of anything else to say at the moment. It should be a great tournament whatever happens, and I intend to watch every minute of it. I hope everyone has a great snooker week.


                • #9
                  I've put the kettle on for tea and now I'll proceed to read, thanks Odrl


                  • #10
                    2017 Masters

                    tea supped, and read...
                    another great, frank and insightful write up as usual Odrl
                    you do really need to get out more
                    Up the TSF!


                    • #11
                      Top stuff as always, Odrl.

                      Buzzing for it to start now
                      Favourite players: Kirk Stevens, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ding Junhui


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by PatBlock View Post
                        Yep, starts tomorrow.


                        The defending champion has a fairly tough draw this year IMO. Really looking forward to it.

                        Game On! Really looking forward to it as well...

                        Edit : just finished reading your as always wonderful write-up Odrl...cheers!
                        Last edited by daffie; 15th January 2017, 12:15 PM.


                        • #13
                          HOW DO THEY DO IT!!!
                          The family have all been out all morning and at exactly 12:59 come storming into the house, all shouting, running around!

                          Up the TSF!


                          • #14
                            That was an interesting stat .....every player is a ranking event winner . First time ever that has happened .
                            Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !


                            • #15
                              My money's on ronnie this year, he is due a good tournament.