We will find out who meets Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of The Masters on Saturday evening when the second semi-final takes place as the former champion Mark Allen faces the 2020 finalist Ali Carter inside Alexandra Palace.
These two men are no stranger to competing for the biggest titles in the game but only one of them will be able to face The Rocket in the final on Sunday. The prize is so big that a competitive match is almost guaranteed here.
When he arrived at Alexandra Palace this week, while he would have had great memories from making the final here the last time he played in this tournament, he would have also known that in all likelihood he would have to make the semi-final by beating a couple of former world champions. He gave as good as he got before pulling away from Mark Williams in the opening match before delivering a dream dish and a seriously good break under pressure in the decider to dump out the defending champion Judd Trump.
On the evidence of what we have seen so far Carter is entitled to feel like he is the favourite in this match. Whether that is the case or not remains to be seen but he is clearly playing well and has started 2024 in similar vein to how he played in 2023. His long game looks sharp and we know that he has a decent tactical game and when he is putting clearances together like he did in the match against Trump he is very hard to beat.
Apart from winning the tournament in 2018, Mark Allen hasn’t done anything in this event in recent times and I guess you could argue that he hasn’t done a whole lot more this week but then out of nowhere in his quarter final with Mark Selby he banged in a maximum and battled his way through a match which quickly turned into an absolute epic contest. That match went through to the early hours of Saturday morning so the first question has to be how he has recovered.
You would think that Allen will need to play better as a whole in this match if he is going to come through and make it to a second Masters final but we do often see that his level can be dictated by how well the opponent plays against him. You just don’t win Masters semi-finals if you don’t score though and while Allen has made a 147, and a couple of other tons in the event, there is more to come from him, so long as he isn’t jaded after two cliffhangers so far.
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These two men have met on 12 previous occasions and it is locked at six wins each between them but the difference comes in the frame count where Allen holds a 45-37 advantage over Carter. Those statistics don’t include their meeting in the final of the Shootout last month when Allen came on out top. This will be the first time they have faced each other in a semi-final and it is their first match at The Masters as well. They have played four best of 11 frame matches against each other though and Allen has won the lot so that might be where history is on his side.
My hunch is that Ali Carter will win this match but I don’t see either player running away with what I expect to be a very competitive semi-final. Both men have given so much to get to this stage of the tournament and I don’t think either will be keen to pass up the opportunity now. Allen has played the full 22 frames he could have done to reach this stage and Carter has played 21 of the 22 he could have been involved in, so both have handled themselves with the backs against the wall.
If you go through their history there isn’t many matches that have been tight but this is probably the biggest match they have played in, certainly in financial terms anyway and we know how competitive they are and how big a competitor they are so if one plays well the other can respond. We’ve seen matches get closer the longer this week has gone on and I think we are in for a very lengthy semi-final here so I like over 9.5 frames in this one.
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