The first snooker tournament of the decade begins on Sunday when the leading 16 players in the world rankings head to Alexandra Palace for The Masters, the most prestigious invitational in the game, and the second Triple Crown event of the season.
Judd Trump kicked off an amazing 2019 in style in this tournament 12 months ago and he has made it into the field to attempt to defend his title this week. A pretty decent set of players will look to dethrone him at the Palace but they do not include Ronnie O’Sullivan who chose not to enter.
2019 – Judd Trump
2018 – Mark Allen
2017 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2016 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2015 – Shaun Murphy
2014 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2013 – Mark Selby
2012 – Neil Robertson
2011 – Ding Junhui
2010 – Mark Selby
There is no nuances to the format this week. It is a pretty simple one it has to be said. The tournament is a straight knockout right from the beginning with every match up to the final over the best of 11 frames on the one main table in the venue. The final is the best of 19 on the second Sunday of the competition with two sessions of action being used to determine who will land the second Triple Crown event of the campaign.
The top quarter of the draw is an absolute pearler this week. The defending champion Judd Trump is the number one seed and he headlines it but he is certainly not the only star in it. Shaun Murphy is a tournament winner this year and he is here, while Ding Junhui will be looking to win a second successive Triple Crown title having snapped up the first of the campaign at the UK Championship. Joe Perry is the other match in what looks like a juicy section.
If the first quarter looked good the second one is every bit as hot as two former winners of the tournament and two men who have lost in world finals make up the quartet in it. Mark Selby has a decent record in the event and he is the second highest seed in this quarter. John Higgins is the leading seed. Barry Hawkins has lost in the final at Alexandra Palace in the past while Ali Carter will be looking to take advantage of his invite which came when Ronnie O’Sullivan withdrew from the event.
Two other former winners of this tournament are housed in the third quarter with the 2018 champion Mark Allen one of the four men in it. It is the Champion of Champions winner Neil Robertson who is the highest ranked player in the section though and he’ll be the favourite to come through it. Dave Gilbert is making his debut in the tournament and he’ll be looking for a good run, as will the UK finalist Stephen Maguire.
Once again we have a former champion in this quarter as well as Mark Williams headlines what could actually be the most competitive quarter of the whole lot. Stuart Bingham doesn’t have the sort of record here that he should have given his quality and how local he is to the tournament. Kyren Wilson was a losing finalist here two years ago and will be eyeing up another deep run while Jack Lisowski just made it to the final of the Scottish Open before the end of 2019 and will be hoping to go well here.
I’ll go with one bet in the outright market this week which comes in the form of Jack Lisowski who I think could be a little overpriced at 33/1. He is in the wide open quarter with Mark Williams, whose form is awful and keeps telling us that he isn’t really practicing, Kyren Wilson who hasn’t won a match here apart from the year he made the final and Stuart Bingham who has been coming here for 10 years and has only got past the first round once.
There was an awful lot to like about Lisowski in the Scottish Open recently, especially in his semi-final against Mark Allen. That was a one-table situation like this one is and actually since he made his debut here last year, he has got a lot more experience in this sort of setup. Lisowski has all the talent needed to come through this quarter and then anything can happen from there. At 33/1 I can’t ignore an outright punt here.
Back J.Lisowski to win The Masters (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: