We have two more first round matches at The Masters on Monday and the afternoon match sees two former winners going at it when Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Ding Junhui in what is a repeat of the UK Championship final from earlier in the season.
O’Sullivan won that final 10-7 and he’ll be looking to keep up his fine record over the Chinese star but Ding is back in the top 16 as a result of his run in York and will be looking to make the most of his opportunity here.
It is never easy to assess the form of Ronnie O’Sullivan these days but I don’t think it is a coincidence that the two titles he has won this term have been two of the bigger that were available to him. The first one was the Shanghai Masters which was for the elite players and the other was the biggest ranking event of the season so far in terms of the UK Championship. It is no secret that he is only really interested in the better tournaments these days and this is definitely one of them.
O’Sullivan has a bit of a mixed record in this tournament in recent times. He has lifted the trophy on seven occasions and lost in another six finals but since he last won the event in 2017 he has only been past the quarter final once so maybe there is something in it when he says that he feels daunted by the raucous atmosphere that is created for him inside Alexandra Palace. Nevertheless, he always heads to this part of London as the one to beat.
Ding Junhui had a wonderful run to the final of the UK Championship where the likes of Mark Allen and Mark Williams were among his victims but he hasn’t been past the quarter final of any other tournament this season, so while he looks to be returning to being competitive at the top level of the sport, he isn’t there consistently yet. It goes without saying that he has to be at his best if he is going to give himself a good chance to win this one.
Such was the demise of the Ding game, this is his first appearance at this tournament in three years. He won the event at Wembley in 2011 but in 10 appearances since then he has lost in the first round on eight occasions so get the impression that this isn’t his favourite event. The last time that Ding went past the opening round here was in 2019. He made the semi-final that year but lost out to O’Sullivan, which might be significant here.
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These two men have met on 30 previous occasions so they will know each other very well. O’Sullivan has come out on top in 20 of those matches with Ding winning seven times. They have delivered three draws against each other in the Premier League too. In terms of the frame count, O’Sullivan leads 176-127 so he has plenty in hand. Their most recent match was at the UK Championship final which O’Sullivan won 10-7. This will be the sixth time the two have played in The Masters. O’Sullivan has won all of the previous five although Ding did take their last match to a deciding frame. O’Sullivan leads their last 16 matches 4-2 and in battles over the best of 11 frames it is 8-2 to the Rocket. Ding does have a best of 11 win in the Six Red event though. It is fair to say that history is very much with O’Sullivan here.
Ding put up a decent effort in the UK Championship final but he still fell out of the starting traps and was 4-1 down before he found his form and with his history both in this tournament and particularly against Ronnie O’Sullivan in it if he starts out so slowly here I don’t see a way back for him. It is clear that Ding struggles here. Eight first round defeats in his last 10 goes at this tournament tells us that because Ding would have been the higher seed in many of those matches.
The handicap for O’Sullivan is 2.5 frames which is probably a little on the high side for wiggle room so I’ll go with a bet which often lands when the Rocket is on show and that is for him to make a break of more than 109.5. He covered this line in every match apart from the first one at the UK Championship and looked to be firing in the long game department there. If his long game is on it here you’d expect him to get in at some point and clear the table but it is perfectly possible that Ding leaves him in so I’ll take the legend to make a break of 110 or more.
Back R.O’Sullivan – Over 109.5 break for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with Betway