IT’S the final day of the opening round of the Masters from Alexandra Palace. Our man Michael Day (@daisy8ball) tells us who he’s backing.
Mark Allen v John Higgins | Wednesday | BBC
The last day of first round action brings us a clash between two players with contrasting form this season.
Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen has had a fantastic season including a purple patch of form where he reached four consecutive tournament finals. Despite winning just one of them, he’s shown a welcome return to the business end of events after a fairly average 18 months.
He was runner up in the Shanghai Masters and International Championship, lost in a decider to Mark Selby in the Riga Open PTC, but defeated Judd Trump in the final when winning the Paul Hunter Classic.
Shortly before Christmas he qualified for the German Masters to be held later on in the year, so comes into the Masters with high hopes. This despite being a competition where he has only one semi-final appearance to his name in six attempts.
John Higgins’ world ranking continues to drop. The two times Masters champ has failed to reach a single quarter-final this term in either the PTC or the main ranking events.
This is proportional to the steady decline the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ has exhibited over the last two and a half years. His recent Masters history is also mundane considering his last final was eight years ago.
I can only really see Allen coming through this one. The head to head record between these two is seven a piece, but Allen has won five of the last six, that’s why 8/13 with Ladbrokes for the former twice World Open champion looks very good indeed.
Higgins can be found at 6/4 with Skybet, but this odds against punt is not for me. More so, with the current contrasts between the players, Ladbrokes’ offering of even money for Allen minus 1.5 in the handicap market again tickles me!
Ding Junhui v Joe Perry | Wednesday | BBC
The fight for the last quarter final berth will see former champion here Ding Junhui take on World number 13 Joe Perry.
Ding is one of my favourite players, but has endured a poor eight months after his shock first round exit in the World Championships back in April. Prior to that defeat, Ding had the best season of his life winning an incredible five ranking events in the same season, a feat only matched by the great Stephen Hendry.
It seems since that day at the Crucible the man from China has played within himself, with a semi final at the Shanghai Masters his best this season in the main rankers. He did win an Asian tour event earlier on but shock defeats in the big comps this campaign have been a regular occurrence.
I for one hope he can restart his season from now and hopefully build to a crescendo in May for the World Championship, the big monkey still on his back.
Joe Perry is one of only two players in the field who has yet to win a major ranking event (the other being Rob Milkins). Back in June though he had his best chance to realise a dream when he stood on the brink of victory in the Wuxi Classic against Neil Robertson.
Perry led 9-8, but was in control in the deciding frame before seeing his hopes dashed, and to be fair he hasn’t really recovered since. At the trophy ceremony he looked crestfallen over the missed opportunity. Following on from this loss, he crashed out in his first match in the next three mainstream tournaments.
Overall he has failed to negotiate past the last 32 of the Australian Open, Shanghai Masters, I.C. & U.K. Championships, all alarming stuff. Something that is even more daunting for Perry is that in his six entries to date at the Masters he has lost every single match. Quite frankly I can not see this changing and his odds of 9/4 with Coral would suggest that.
Junhui has a dominant record against the Englishman. In fact his terrestrial TV bow in this country was as a 16 year old wildcard in this event where he beat stunned Perry six frames to three. He has also won their last four matches.
Ding is best priced at 2/5 and I would expect the World number 2 to win comfortably in this best of 11 clash. In those latest four victories against Joe, he has started quickly and made the highest break in each game.
Mark Allen v John Higgins – Mark Allen -1.5 Frames (Evens Ladbrokes)
Ding Junhui v Joe Perry – Ding Junhui to compile the highest break (8/15 Bet365)
Ding Junhui v Joe Perry – Ding Junhui to win the race to three frames (8/15 Paddy Power)