The last match in the first round of The Masters takes place inside Alexandra Palace on Wednesday evening, and it sees two former world champions battling it out when the Welsh star Mark Williams meets Stuart Bingham for a quarter final spot.
Kyren Wilson or Jack Lisowski will be waiting for the winner in the last eight and with the draw having opened right up elsewhere, both men will be extremely aware that there is a big chance to add to their Triple Crown hauls this week.
Mark Williams has made it back to this tournament once again but if he is going to be here next year something is going to have to give. He has made no secret of the fact that he has enjoyed his World Championship win of a couple of years ago but that prize money will come off his ranking in May and he’ll drop right down the rankings as a result if he can’t put some ranking wins together between now and then.
This isn’t a ranking event and that might free him up, but he isn’t going to win a whole lot if he doesn’t re-dedicate himself to the game and give it the respect it deserves. He is a former champion in this event but since he last won the title in 2003, he has only made it past the quarter final once so his recent record in the event is nothing to write home about. He is the higher ranked player of the two though which might count for something.
It has been a really poor season for Stuart Bingham so far. All he has to show for his efforts is one quarter final, and he has already lost out in qualifying for the next two events so he is going to need a big week here to build himself up for the remainder of the campaign. The last time we saw Bingham on our screens was at the UK Championship where he was absolutely dreadful in losing to John Higgins. He’ll need a vast improvement on that if he’s to go well this week.
Bingham is becoming something of a veteran in this tournament but that doesn’t mean to say his record in it is particularly good. In fact, it is anything but that. He has been to this event nine times in the past and he has only come through the first round once, so there is something about this tournament, whether it is the one table set up or the standard of opposition from the start, that doesn’t seem to agree with him.
Head to Head
These two world champions have met on 11 past occasions and it is actually Bingham who has had the better of them with six wins to the five of Williams, but in a strange quirk it is Williams who has won by far the more frames with 44 on his side to 40 for Bingham. That suggests that when Williams wins he does so by a decent margin whereas Bingham’s wins would tend to be closer. This will be their first meeting at The Masters and their first over the best of 11 in a 15 red tournament too.
Bookmakers make this match 10/11 each of two so if you have a strong feeling for either man then you’ll be nicely rewarded but I certainly don’t have any such thoughts. Bingham never convinces me in this tournament and I’ll need to see a good few performances from him before I can forget that UK Championship showing while Williams was arguably even worse at York and looks to be a man winding down his career.
I sense one of two things will happen here. They will either both struggle and bring each other down or one will get going quickly and the other will show their class to react to it. Whichever one it is I’m expecting a close battle, magnified by the fact that the draw has opened up so much. Over 9.5 frames is 6/5 in this match and with these two no stranger to a tight match I’m expecting that to land over the course of the evening.
Back Over 9.5 frames for a 4/10 stake at 2.20 with William Hill
Back it here: