The evening match on the second day of the 2022 The Masters sees two seasoned campaigners taking to the baize inside Alexandra Palace when Shaun Murphy goes up against Barry Hawkins for a place in the quarter final.
These two men have both been to the final of this competition in the past so they know what it takes to come through these opening rounds. That might make this one a little more competitive than it might have been.
When you consider how close Shaun Murphy was to winning the world title for a second time last season, you would have to suggest this campaign has been a bit of a mess for him so far. His results have been so poor that he didn’t even make it to the World Grand Prix last month and although his run to the world final will protect his ranking for a while, he could do with a decent second half of the season to avoid having to play the star names earlier in the bigger events.
Murphy has lost his last four matches this season and has only been past the second round of one tournament. I’m a little surprised to see him on the TV coverage during the earlier match on Monday because you would think he would be keeping himself to himself ahead of what is a huge game. It might not matter overall but he’ll be opening himself up to a bit of criticism if he loses and seemingly not practicing more in the build up.
In all fairness it wasn’t much more of a better season for Barry Hawkins until the UK Championship came along. He made the semi-final there where he took advantage of a draw which opened up more than anything but that does at least remind us that he comes to the party in the bigger events and history would tell us that the longer a season goes on the better he usually gets. That run at the UK Championship was the only time he has been past the second round this season.
Hawkins was a finalist here six years ago so although he has never won the title, he does have experience of going deep in this event and at this stage of his career he is likely to thrive on the big stage. This isn’t a ranking event but it is a big match for Hawkins because he hasn’t qualified for the German Masters at the end of the month so he could do with a decent run here else he won’t play much until next month and he’ll get no rhythm into his season.
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Head to Head
Murphy might not be having the best of seasons to date but he’ll be delighted to know that he has won 11 of the 14 meetings he has had with Hawkins in the past. He is 72-50 up on the frame count in those matches too which suggests he tends to win with a bit to spare. That record was padded with ‘The Magician’ winning their last two meetings although it is coming up to a year since they last met. One thing which will give Hawkins encouragement is this is the third time this pair will have met here at The Masters. The previous two were also in this round and both went the way of the left hander by emphatic 6-1 and 6-2 scores. He also leads Murphy 3-1 in their best of 11 frames matches.
Bookmakers have this as an even contest with Murphy has the slight favourite. I guess that is based on their head to head record but I don’t see it that way. I expect Barry Hawkins to win this match. Murphy seems in a crossroads with his game at the minute. He seems intent on this aggressive all-out attack game which is probably the right way to go because his safety is terrible at this level but when you are slightly off you can get found out very easily.
Hawkins has a good balance to his game. He can mix it tactically and while you wouldn’t say he is extremely good in the safety department like a Higgins or Selby, he is astute enough to keep Murphy at long distance and feast on the chances which come his way. Hawkins is a good scorer and generally rises to the occasion and has done throughout his career. In an ideal world Hawkins would be in better form but at just over even money I’m happy to take the better all-round player in this one.
WON – Back B.Hawkins to beat S.Murphy for a 3/10 stake at 2.05 with Betfred