SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews Monday's action from the 2020 Masters at Alexandra Palace.
Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire | Monday 13th January 2020, 13:00 | BBC
There aren’t many on tour with a positive head-to-head record against Neil Robertson, but Stephen Maguire has one. Excluding Championship League matches (irrelevant in my eyes), Maguire leads 11-8, and one of those wins was in this event in 2014. This is their first proper meeting since late 2015 where Robertson thumped him 6-1 at York.
Robertson won the first Masters here at the Ally Pally in 2012, and is yet to lose in a first-round match at this venue. In fact, his last first-round defeat in the Masters was in 2010 against O’Sullivan so the omens are good for Robbo.
If Maguire turns up like he did at the UK Championship pre-Christmas, he’s got a real chance here. But that is debatable. He is an enigma after all. Robertson is so much more savvy and unless Maguire plays that A game of his, Robbo’s B game will be strong enough.
Only ranking event winners Shaun Murphy and Yan Bingtao have beaten Robertson in a best-of-11 this season. If Maguire was 7/2 or bigger, that might have grabbed my attention, 13/5 doesn’t.
I expect it to be relatively tight, but Robertson to pull through a frame before a decider.
Predicted score: Robertson 6-4.
Mark Allen v David Gilbert | Monday 13th January 2020, 19:00 | BBC
The 2018 Masters Champion Mark Allen has been ultra consistent this term without hitting the back of the net. He’s made six semi-finals (four in rankers) but lost in all six – a career win percentage now of 44% in that domain.
One thing with Allen is that he’s so resilient. He did say on Twitter during qualifying before Christmas that he was tired and required a break. Freshened up, he won’t lay down and die, and will be determined to right the wrongs. Forgetting his form coming into this, Allen is only bothered about titles and he’s sat with nothing to show, nine tournaments in.
He faced Monday’s opponent David Gilbert on Halloween night last year in Yushan, and Gilbert won the contest 5-3. As mentioned before, Gilbert is the only debutant in the field. He certainly won’t be overawed by the occasion – likely to embrace it like he did at the Crucible in May when he made the one table set-up in the semi-final, losing in a decider. He proved he belongs in this company.
Gilbert had the best year of his career in 2019 but ended it on a sour note losing in both pre-Christmas qualifiers to Allen’s best mate on tour, Jordan Brown. But the event before, he made the semi-final of the Scottish Open where he took out Murphy and Trump.
Allen lost only his third first-round contest in 11 years last season in his title defence and if he does get over the line to avoid a fourth, I think this is heading for the nitty gritty of nine or 10 frames. William Hill go 6/5 on more than 9.5 frames in the match and it looks likely to me. I have a feeling Gilbert might win it too. He’s a 6/4 chance.
Predicted score: Gilbert 6-5