THE Masters continues on Tuesday with two more first round ties. Our pool pro tipster Michael Day has studied the card closely to form his best bets.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ricky Walden | Tuesday | BBC
Pre-tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan cues off his campaign to defend the Masters title against a player who he not only beat last year, but destroyed!
It took the Rocket little over an hour to dismantle Ricky Walden in a near perfect display of snooker, some experts even saying it was the greatest exhibition of snooker they had ever seen.
Could he dish up the same this time around? Possible, – he is on a winning streak of 13 matches after all! O'Sullivan is undefeated since October and has picked up two major trophies on the way.
However, I don’t expect him to repeat the exact same dose. Win, almost certainly (1/5 Boylesports), but in Walden (9/2 Coral) he faces a man who picked up his greatest title to date this season in winning the International Championship.
That was Walden’s third major ranking event title, which may come as a surprise to some people. Actually in his first, the 2008 Shanghai Masters, he defeated a long odds-on O’Sullivan in the final, showing that he is very much capable and can rise to the occasion.
There is one catch mind you, all of his championship wins have come abroad in China. Whilst being a former UK and World semi-finalist, and very consistent on home soil, I feel Walden (very much like Rob Milkins in a previous report of mine) slightly struggles to capture that form on a one table set up in this country.
In China, tournaments are often held in big sports halls with the crowd some distance away, nothing like the more intimate settings of the Ally Pally or Crucible Theatre.
Under the BBC cameras he has performed well, but I can’t think of too many match ups when he’s beaten a fancied odds on favourite. In fact in his last outing on the Beeb he was whitewashed by Stuart Bingham 6-0. I may have painted a sorry picture there, but I do expect Ricky to compete, he is a champion and one of the best players on the planet.
Despite Ronnie’s recent dominance, opponents have generally started the opening exchanges well and results have been fairly close. That’s why I’m going for the match result and both players to win three frames market at 6/5 on Ronnie O’Sullivan with William Hill.
In regards to a slow start, if you’re feeling brave you can get 11/5 with Betfred that the opening four frames will be shared 2-2.
Barry Hawkins v Ali Carter | Tuesday | BBC
Yet again, as to be expected in the clash of the World’s Top 16, this match is very close to call.
Both have won ranking events and both have previously reached the World Championship final. However the pair still await one of snookers top three titles.
Ali Carter, as we know, had to take time off earlier in the season to overcome testicular cancer. Thankfully it looks as if he has pulled through and now looks forward to competing again.
He returned to major competitive snooker in November but lost his opening matches at the IC and UK Championships. He then lost in German Masters qualifying just before Christmas. These results however were totally understandable at the time, with match sharpness and probably fitness not up to 100 percent.
At the start of this new year ‘The Captain’ competed in the Championship League. He came through two days of gruelling match play snooker, won four out of the six matches in the group phase and came top of the pile. He did go on to lose in the semi-final play off, but fatigue wise I think a best of 11 one session match should be manageable.
Reigning Players Tour Championship winner Hawkins currently sits 5th in the world, which is evidence of his frequent appearances in the later stages of recent tournaments.
He too has competed in the Championship League post Christmas in Group 1, where he qualified for the play-offs, and went on to get through to the winners group later on in the season. En route he also compiled a maximum 147 break, so comes in with good form. This being in stark contrast to his last TV showing where he inexplicably lost 6-5 to Nigel Bond after being 5-0 up.
So where does my penny lie? I can really see this going many ways, so I can't confidently tip something I don’t particularly fancy. But I think there is some value on the match betting.
Hawkins is 8/15 (Paddy Power), but Carter to win at 7/4 with BetVictor looks well over the top. Why? Well here’s the punch line, Carter has won their last eight meetings and nine out of ten overall. Some may say about the law of averages, but with Ali fit again, that price is a false estimation in my book.
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Ricky Walden – O'Sullivan to win and Walden to win three or more frames (6/5 William Hill)
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Ricky Walden – 2-2 after first four frames (11/5 Betfred)
Barry Hawkins v Ali Carter – Ali Carter to win (7/4 BetVictor)