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Ronnie O’Sullivan ready for defence of Masters snooker title

Ronnie O’Sullivan, 7/4 favourite with Coral for the event, will begin the defence of his Masters snooker crown this month against his fellow world top 16 players at Alexandra Palace.

Traditionally, the 16 highest-ranked competitors will go head-to-head at London’s eight-day event, with the Rocket hoping to retain his title and capture a sixth Masters trophy.

The five-time World Champion is in the more favourable top-half of the draw, but a potential semi-final meeting with Australian Neil Robertson is definitely on the cards, with both former triple crown winners odds-on favourites to win their first round matches.

O’Sullivan is 2/13 to topple Chester’s Ricky Walden, while rampant Robertson is 4/6 to overcome the Milkman Robert Milkins while making the highest break of the match.

Australia’s prolific potter made a historic century of centuries last season, and off the back of his fluid form, the Thunder from Down Under is 5/1 to knock in the highest break of this prestigious tournament.

Ali Carter has had to courageously overcome off-the-baize battles and, having recently finished his successful chemotherapy treatment, the Captain was victorious in October’s General Cup. The returning crowd favourite will be confident of overcoming Barry Hawkins, having won nine of their 10 meetings, and is 13/8 to continue his commanding record.

Alexandra Palace’s show-piece event will open with reigning Crucible king Mark Selby coming up against Shaun ‘the Magician’ Murphy, and the Jester from Leicester is 8/11 to progress past Murphy and 8/1 to claim the title outright.

The bottom-half of the draw is littered with past World and Masters champions, although it’s Judd Trump, a player who has won neither of those titles that is favourite to progress. Triumphant Trump is in sensational form, securing a win in Australia earlier in the term, and also running O’Sullivan close in his previous two major final outings.

Bristol’s Juddernaut is 6/1 to win his maiden Masters crown and odds-on 2/5 to stifle Scotsman Stephen Maguire in their first round match-up.

However, On-Fire Maguire will be tough to stop, having recently picked up a Lisbon Open victory and the Scot is available at 25/1 to follow that title up with a Masters win.

In other Masters action, Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen meets former World Champion John Higgins, and Ding Junhui does battle with Joe Perry. After making his best start to a season ever, the Pistol Allen is 16/1 to claim the competition, having reached two major finals in China and winning a PTC title.

Stuart Bingham is odds-on 4/7 to beat Marco Fu in their first round fixture, after recently defeating the Hong Kong veteran in a Snooker Champions League meeting earlier this month. But Fu, 11/8 to win, has the edge in head-to-head clashes with Ball Run Bingham, claiming victory five times in nine encounters.

Trump could potentially clash with UK Champion O’Sullivan in a third consecutive major final, however, with the Rocket in possibly the form of his life, snooker’s greatest talent is a massive favourite to walk away with Alexandra Palace’s £200k prize money.