The second day of competition at The Masters begins with the biggest box office attraction in snooker but certainly in London as Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Stuart Bingham inside the Alexandra Palace in the capital.
Both these men are seasoned campaigners in this tournament although O’Sullivan’s record is markedly better than that of his opponent. The two will be facing off to meet Ryan Day in the quarter final later in the week.
The Rocket is popular wherever he gets his cue out but he is loved in London which makes him extraordinarily hard to beat in this tournament and you tend to find whoever does it is playing well enough to go on and lift the title, such as Mark Allen did last year. He is tough to beat not just because of the quality of his game but the passionate support he receives from the London crowd.
O’Sullivan heads into the tournament this year having already landed the Champion of Champions title, the Shanghai Masters one and the UK Championship so he looks to be in wonderful form and is probably the man to beat. He hasn’t played competitively for a month though which might have allowed some rust to set in but you would be surprised if that derails him.
One of the mysteries of recent snooker is the poor record of Stuart Bingham in this tournament. He isn’t a youngster who could be like a rabbit caught in the headlights and he isn’t lowly ranked to the extent that his appearances here are infrequent but there is clearly something about the event that he doesn’t like. In recent times he won’t have been the lower seed in his first round match either so it does take some explaining.
The big thing for Bingham is that he will head into this tournament with his spirits relatively high. He has a title to his name this season already and that always takes the pressure off a player. It means he’ll be in the bigger events over the course of the season so he can let his cue arm go and see if he can cause what would be a pretty hefty shock given O’Sullivan’s strength here.
Head to Head
This will be meeting number 18 of these two men and as you would expect, Ronnie O’Sullivan has a pretty dominant record over Stuart Bingham. O’Sullivan has won 14 of their previous battles with Bingham coming out on top three times. The Essex potter has a World Championship win over the Rocket though so he can beat him on the big stage. They have met twice this season and O’Sullivan has won 4-2 in Coventry and 6-2 in Shanghai. The UK champion leads 106-68 in frames across all their meetings which suggests he tends to win relatively comfortably.
You have to fear for Stuart Bingham here. Only once in eight appearances has he come through the first round in this tournament and that run ended with a 6-3 loss to Ronnie O’Sullivan which probably isn’t a good thing. Indeed, only once since 2007 has his tournament ended in a defeat tighter than 6-3 and as I highlighted earlier we rarely see the best of Bingham in this competition.
O’Sullivan usually hits the ground running in this tournament and we know he is in good form after the tournaments he has played already this season. Bingham tends to play a game that suits O’Sullivan in that he likes the balls open but O’Sullivan’s long game and his safety game is superior to Bingham’s. I don’t see Bingham winning more than three frames here.
Back R.O’Sullivan (-2.5 frames) to beat S.Bingham for a 4/10 stake at 2.05 with Coral