The evening session at The Masters on Wednesday will see the last of the first round matches played out inside Alexandra Palace as the former champion Mark Selby takes on a Robert Milkins who is finally back in this event.
Selby is a player with the stature of someone who should be heading to London intent on winning this competition while Milkins will probably just be glad to be here given the hard work he has had to put in to get back into the top 16.
Usually we are used to Mark Selby arriving at The Masters with a title or two under his belt this season. He did win a minor invitation event in Macau around Christmas time but he doesn’t have that ranking title on his CV this season, although he was a win away from getting it at the British Open and he has also made a couple of other semi-finals this term, which suggests that while he isn’t where he was when he was dominating the game a few years ago, he does still have plenty of ability to get the job done despite his highly publicised troubles.
Selby has won this title three times so we know that the environment and the quality of the field is something which fires the juices flowing around him but since he last made the final here in 2014, he has never been beyond the quarter final and that is actually a bit of a poor record because most of the times he has come here he will have been seeded in the top four and expected to reach the weekend action. That might be something which throws up a few doubts within him.
This isn’t the debut in the tournament for Robert Milkins. He has actually played in it twice before but when the last time he competed at The Masters was 2015 he could be forgiven for thinking that it is a debut because this arena has transformed both in size and prestige since then and the tournament has elevated itself to a whole new level even allowing for the history it was carrying back then. He could need a couple of frames to settle down in these surroundings.
That is one issue for Milkins and the other one is that his ranking is largely down to the form he showed last season rather than this one. He hasn’t been beyond a quarter final this term although he did give a fair account of himself at the UK Championship which is one thing he might be able to draw upon here. He warmed up for the week in the opening group of the Championship League last week where he lost five out of his six matches so if he used that to rebuild confidence that was a move that failed.
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These two men have met on 14 previous occasions and it is very much Mark Selby who has had the better of them. He has 11 wins to the three of Robert Milkins and when you transfer that into the frame count you get a 71-47 advantage for ‘The Jester’. That suggests he wins very comfortably against Milkins and he has won all three of their matches in the last 16 of a tournament. This will be the first time they have met at The Masters and just the third time they have met over the best of 11 frames. Selby won the two previous matches of that distance. History is clearly on the Selby side here.
I was a little surprised to see that the handicap lines for a 2.5 frame cap were on the fair side price wise for this one because I think Mark Selby might have a little more in hand of that. Robert Milkins did win their last meeting at the Welsh Open last year and went on to win the tournament but he was in a rich vein of form around that time and you can’t suggest he is in anything like that sort of touch here, unlike his opponent.
Both men have played in the Championship League last week so neither of them have a competitive edge on the other one but Selby certainly has a confidence edge having competed in his group a whole lot better than Milkins did in his. The fact that this is Milkins’ first appearance here in so long can’t be much more of a help to him either and while he probably has nothing to lose I just expect the lower ranked player to be schooled a bit here. Selby has too much nous and experience around here and I think he’ll win no worse than 6-3.
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