The Masters kicks off Sunday afternoon and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Ronnie O’Sullivan will do very well.
The huge event at Alexandra Palace sees the top 16 players in the world compete for the Paul Hunter Trophy and the £250,000 grand prize, or at least, it’s said to be the top 16 in the world.
With Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao suspended for match-fixing, the two Chinese stars have been replaced by Hossein Vafaei and Dave Gilbert respectively, so not quite in the top 16 but still a great line-up.
With eight world champions in the field, it’s possible to make a case for a number of players in North London, but it’s the current world champions who are getting the most pundit attention this year.
O’Sullivan has won the Masters seven times in the past, more than any other player, and is expected to perform well again as he prepares to face Luca Brecel in the first round.
Former world number three Neal Foulds told Eurosport: “I have to be predictable and say Ronnie will be very dangerous again in the bottom half of the draw. I’m playing it safe and saying Ronnie has it for the eighth time done.’ can win.’
Jimmy White, who won the 1984 event, added, “I’m definitely with Neal Foulds. When Ronnie lost 6-0 to Ding in the UK [Championship] I think he had had enough of snooker after winning those tournaments [Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions], he will get his nut down and practice really hard. I expect him to be in great shape for the Masters, so I’m going for O’Sullivan as well.
Former world champions Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty went through the draw to set up a probable final between O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson in what would be a huge opportunity for the sport.
Hendry bucked the trend by tipping the Australian to defend the title he won a year ago by beating Barry Hawkins in the final.
“I’m going to be shadowing Robertson in this final, he loves playing Ronnie in the final,” Hendry said on his Cue Tips YouTube channel. “He wins at least one tournament every year, he hasn’t won anything this season, that could be the win.”
Doherty disagreed, saying “If you go for Robertson I’ll be against you, I’ll go for Ronnie, the seven-time champion.” It’ll be close to Ronnie, I think 10-8 or 10-9.
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