The second quarter final of The Masters formulates the evening session at Alexandra Palace on Thursday night when the former champion and new tournament favourite John Higgins goes up against Ali Carter for a semi-final place.
Higgins knows all about making it past quarter finals at this competition having done so on a number of occasions, but Carter is looking to step into unchartered territory here having never previously gone further than this stage in his Masters career.
Given his pretty ordinary record in this tournament and his largely quiet season so far, a lot of credit should go to Carter for delivering the goods against Mark Selby in the first round. It wasn’t just that he delivered the goods, it was the comfort he showed in the arena and the quality of performance he put in which was particularly impressive. Having taken out one former Triple Crown winner he now has to take care of another.
It might be that the draw not opening up immediately for him will help Carter here. You sense in this environment his best chance is to progress as an underdog with not so much to lose, but the one thing we know about the Captain is that he has a determination which will stand him in good stead. He is clearly on something of a free roll having only made it into the event when Ronnie O’Sullivan withdrew from it so he shouldn’t be ruled out.
When you consider that John Higgins has won this tournament twice, you would have to suggest for someone as good as he is, he has underachieved in this event and he didn’t look completely comfortable in seeing off Barry Hawkins on Tuesday night. He was somewhat fortunate that Hawkins was a bit of a shambles in truth and you suspect the Scot will need more than he had in that match to come through here.
In fact, since Higgins last won this title in 2006, he has only gone past the quarter final of this tournament three times in 13 attempts, so this is not a tournament he plays well in. When you add that to the fact that he is now the favourite to win the event, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world if we don’t see the 2006 at his very best. That doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t win here as he has won many matches with his B or C game.
Head to Head
There have been 19 previous meetings between these two men and it is John Higgins who holds an emphatic 13-5 lead with the one draw between the two. The frame count gives away the one-sided nature of this clash as Higgins leads that 85-59 which is a pretty sizeable margin when there is only eight wins between the two of them. They have met once previously in this competition which came at this stage in 2013, a match Higgins prevailed 6-3 in. He also won their last meeting which came in the 2018 World Grand Prix.
History might suggest this match is all about John Higgins but I’m not convinced he is playing as well as we would expect or that his reputation and the odds he has been priced up at for this match suggests that he is. The scoreline from the first round is massively flawed after Hawkins wasn’t at the races in any way, shape or form and I wonder if Ali Carter might well be an ounce of value in this one as a result.
You could easily argue that Mark Selby wasn’t his best in the first round against Carter but he was battling like we know he can do so Carter did at least beat something that accounts to a form guide, unlike Higgins. It might be that now he is through a match Higgins warms to the task but if Carter shows what he did in the opening round and is just an ounce cleaner on his scoring there is no reason why he can’t take this one.
WON – Back A.Carter to beat J.Higgins for a 3/10 stake at 3.00 with Betfred