Ally Pally Set For Walden Wipeout

The Masters

Outright Betting

It’s one of the most prestigious events on the snooker calendar and this year’s Masters has the potential to be one of the most closely contested in recent years. Jaymes Monte reports.

Ronnie O’Sullivan may have won the UK Championships at the beginning of December, but it was arguably Judd Trump who gained more from the event after battling back from 9-4 behind to force a deciding frame in the best-of-19 final.

The 25-year-old appears to finally be coming of age in the sport, and appears to have all aspects of his game in check. He’s been tagged as a ‘world champion in waiting’ for many a year now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the year when he realised that potential.

Of course, the biggest obstacle in his way is the man that they all have to beat and the one that, ultimately, he failed to get past at the UK Championships; The Rocket. O’Sullivan is arguably more dominant in the game now than he has been at any other stage in his career and aside from Trump (arguably also including Trump) there isn’t a player in the game that can hold a light to the Essex man on recent form.

Stuart Bingham also took Ronnie to a deciding frame in the semi-finals of the UK Championships and has recently enjoyed a good run of results at the Championship League at Crondon Park Golf Club. While Stephen Maguire backed up his semi-final loss to Trump at the UK Championships by winning the final Pro Tour event of 2014 in Lisbon. Each will fancy their chances at Alexandra Palace this coming week.

The Draw
With the world’s top 16 competing for one of the game’s most prestigious prizes there are obviously no easy draws at the Masters. That said, some can certainly look more inviting than others. Both Trump and O’Sullivan are handed extremely tricky opening round matches against Ricky Walden and Stephen Maguire respectively.

Ding Junhui has, on paper, a slightly more inviting route to the latter stages as he kicks off against Joe Perry then could meet either an out-of-form John Higgins or Mark Allen, who he has a superior head-to-head record against. Neil Robertson will also fancy his chances of reaching the last four at least as he starts against Robert Milkins before a potential quarter-final with Ali Carter or Barry Hawkins.

Best Bets
Despite his dominance in the game at the moment an unfavourable draw means that I cannot back Ronnie here at odds of 7/4. Trump does appeal at the 13/2 available but he could quite easily fall at the first hurdle against an in-form Maguire and if he doesn’t will come up against Shaun Murphy or Mark Selby in the quarters, so I’ll look elsewhere.

Due to their, ever-so-slightly, favourable draws Robertson and Ding both look to be decent bets at odds of 6/1 and 8/1 respectively, while Mark Selby (15/2) cannot be ignored given his record in this tournament but has no recent form to speak of.

However, I’m going to plump for a rank outsider in Ricky Walden at odds of 50/1. He’s one of the most improved players in the game over the past couple of years and is more than capable of beating O’Sullivan in their first round match;

…if he does so that price would collapse. It’s a value bet, and one that is simply too big for me to ignore.