With prize money of £1/2million, The Masters is one of the three most prestigious events on the snooker calendar and features 16 of world’s top-ranked players.
Alexandra Palace, transformed since the end of the World Darts Championship, is the venue for the invitational tournament won last year by Australia’s Neil Robertson, who is 15/2 with Boylesports to successfully defend his title. He’s been handed a tough first-round draw, however, as he will face China’s Ding Junhui who took his first title of the season at the Scottish Open in Ravenscraig last month, beating Glasgow’s Anthony McGill in the final. Ding looks to be back on track and is only a general 12/1 to win The Masters himself while new world number one Mark Selby is a general 7/1 to follow up his victory in the UK Championship in York with another win at the Ally Pally.
Selby is clearly right at the top of his game at present as he also took the honours in last week’s Munich Open, edging out Graeme Dott is a close-fought final. Dott is given a general 40/1 quote for The Masters but is probably a bit better than that, though faces our tip Stephen Maguire in the first round.
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The Scot is long overdue another ranking tournament success, his last coming in 2008, but he’s twice reached the semi-finals in The Masters though it must be pointed out that he’s also lost in the first round in the last two years. However, in a light campaign this time around, he has shown that his more cautious approach is beginning to pay dividends and the draw has been kind to the 31-year-old, who reached the semi-finals of the World Championships last year. Maguire looks value at a general 16/1 and is a general 9/4 to win the fourth quarter of the draw, where the chief opposition should come from Judd Trump.
The Leicester cue-man lost his number one ranking and UK Championship title to Mark Selby in York when making a surprising exit against Mark Joyce. He’ll be keen to get back on track as the tour moves to the capital but looks a little out of sorts at present, though supporters might want to take advantage of Coral’s offer to return all losing stakes up to £100 if Trump wins The Masters. The 23-year-old faces Barry Hawkins in the opening round and is a best 9/2 with Paddy Power to win The Masters ahead of John Higgins, 7/1 in most places.