Alexandra Palace prepared for monumental Masters Snooker 2016
Lee Gormley | December 18, 2015
London potentially set for best ever Masters
- Sunday, January 10th 2016
- First break-off: 13:00 GMT
- Alexandra Palace, London
- Live on BBC Two and Eurosport
Ronnie returns to the baize on home turf
After another sensational year for snooker, the next major event for the world’s best potters takes place at Alexandra Palace for the Masters 2016. In the sport’s most prestigious invitational event, Ronnie O’Sullivan will make his long-awaited comeback in what is set to be the most competitive instalment of the coveted event yet.
Alongside the Worlds and UK Championship, the Masters is considered one of snooker’s Triple Crown events, with a rich history dating back to 1975 and only the world’s top 16 cueists being invited to compete the famous trophy and a £200k winning prize fund.
Since 2012 the event has been held at London’s iconic Alexandra Palace, where this year fans will be able to witness the Rocket’s return to the baize on home soil in front of a sell-out crowd. In front of his fellow Londoners, five-time Masters champion O’Sullivan is 10/3 favourite with Coral to reign supreme again, but unlike previous seasons, he may not find it quite so easy in reigning supreme once again.
The baize genius will open his latest Masters bid on day three against fellow 40-year-old contender Mark Williams in a repeat of the 2010 semi-final at this coveted non-ranking event, with the latter Welshman aiming for only his 11th victory over O’Sullivan from what will be their 41st ever competitive meeting. Although, he is 21/10 to see off the home favourite, with the Rocket featuring for the first time since his Crucible quarter-final defeat to eventual world champion Stuart Bingham.
Murphy out to prove it’s not just Rocket show
It isn’t all about O’Sullivan though, with a host of incredible break-builders set to arrive at the north London venue in fine form, including none other than defending champion Shaun Murphy. The Magician is 8/1 to retain his crown after a superb season in which he also reached both the World Championship and German Masters final.
The 2005 Crucible king is seeking to become the first player since the late, great Paul Hunter in 2002 to earn successive Masters success, but he has a tricky first match-up with Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen in their tournament opener on January 10th. On his way to clinching the 2015 title, Murphy dispatched the Pistol 6-2 in their semi-final contest and has dominated previous head-to-heads, but Allen will enter at 6/4 to cause an upset.
Murphy’s previous Masters coup also saw him earn a magnificent personal achievement of completing a career Triple Crown, incredible a decade after his Crucible triumph as a 23-year-old, which was also amazingly his maiden ranking event victory. He will return to the London baize in January to try and make further history by successfully retaining the sought-after silverware, but his opening opening Allen is 22/1 to go all the way.
UK champion Robertson a potential master
Gunning for even more circuit success at Alexandra Palace is the newly-crowned UK champion Neil Robertson, with the Thunder from Down Under having rallied to victory over a spirited Liang Wenbo in the final to follow up his Champion of Champions win too.
The Australian potter is 5/1 second-favourite to O’Sullivan to capture another Masters crown, after triumphing in 2012 with a final victory over Murphy. Robertson overcame impressive Chinese cueist Wenbo to claim the UK trophy in December and will have to topple another talented Asian potter in Marco Fu during his opening clash, with the Hong Kong competitor is 15/8 to win this latest tussle.
Talented Wenbo, who was defeated in that York-based UK final, will make his Masters bow in the latest event and is 11/4 to continue his promising form with another win over revived veteran Scot John Higgins.
But that will be no easy feat, with the Wizard of Wishaw, a double Masters winner, having enjoyed a career renaissance of late and is 10/1 for another coup in London.
Trump targets further silverware success
Judd Trump has long been hailed as the future of snooker, with O’Sullivan now nearing the latter stages of his illustrious career, and the Bristol-born break-builder is 6/1 to take home his first ever Masters crown. He faces feisty Scot Stephen Maguire in his opening contest, who is 13/8 to extend his superior head-to-head record.
World number one Mark Selby begins his bid against Ricky Walden, and Leicester’s finest potter is 8/1 to triumph in London, but will have to crack the Walnut Ricky Walden first. Meanwhile, Ding Junhui will hope to overturn his underwhelming season form when he faces world champion Stuart Bingham in another intriguing match-up.
In the other opening fixture, Barry Hawkins collides with Joe Perry, with the latter Gentleman holding a dominant record over his rival going into what should be the most competitive Master Snooker event in recent years.
The Masters Snooker 2016 first round schedule
Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen – Sunday, January 10th at 13:00 GMT
Stuart Bingham v Ding Junhui – Sunday, January 10th at 19:00 GMT
Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire – Monday, January 11th at 13:00 GMT
Barry Hawkins v Joe Perry – Monday, January 11th at 19:00 GMT
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Williams – Tuesday, January 12th at 13:00 GMT
Mark Selby v Ricky Walden – Tuesday, January 12th at 19:00 GMT
John Higgins v Liang Wenbo – Wednesday, January 13th at 13:00 GMT
Neil Robertson v Marco Fu – Wednesday, January 13th at 19:00 GMT
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