SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews Tuesday's action from the 2020 Masters at Alexandra Palace.
Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy | Tuesday 14th January 2020, 13:00 | BBC
From early season form of invincibility which carried on from his scintillating display in winning his first world title in May, Judd Trump has proven in the last month or so that he’s far from unbeatable and is human.
This was compounded by without doubt one of the biggest upsets I can ever recall when he lost to Nigel Bond at the UK Championship. He won’t want this repeating but he led 3-1 in that match and lost the next five frames. The last time Trump lost five frames on the spin (where the length of match makes it possible) was 70 matches previous in September 2018.
He then lost to Ian Burns in European Masters qualifying before Christmas. Not as big a shock as Bond but one all the same.
Murphy is having a much more encouraging season than previously. He made three finals (one a non-ranker) in a row in August and September, winning the China Championship. It was his first ranking title success since the 2017 Gibraltar Open where he defeated Trump in the final.
Murphy won here in 2015 to complete the set of career triple crown events, but since then, has only won one match at the Ally Pally in four years. That sole win came in 2018, then he lost to, you guessed it, Trump in the quarters. In matches longer than best-of-seven, Trump has beaten ‘The Magician' in seven of their nine meetings so that, plus Murphy’s recent woes here, might be significant on Tuesday afternoon.
The defending champion of the Masters has won their opening match the following year in 32 of the 45 years the event has been run (71% win rate) and I predict Trump to increase that tally against Murphy, in what could be a match where big breaks are plentiful. They have 72 centuries between them this season, 54 coming from Trump.
Predicted score: Trump 6-3.
John Higgins v Barry Hawkins | Tuesday 14th January 2020, 19:00 | BBC
John Higgins has been the definition of consistency this season. He’s not lost in one first-round match in a ranking event, and done everything but make a final; three last-16 defeats, a quarter-final and two semis.
That’s partly a lie, as he made the final of the non-ranker 6 Reds World Championship in early September, losing to Stephen Maguire, and won the World Cup with Maguire for Scotland in late June.
Four of Higgins’ past six ranking finals have been in the second half of the season so I’m sure there’s more to come from the Wizard of Wishaw. Since the Masters came to the Ally Pally in 2012, Higgins is yet to make a final here. He reached the final on his debut in 1995, and 2020 marks his 26th straight appearance – a phenomenal achievement from the granite man himself.
Hawkins beat Higgins 6-5 in September on the final black in the Shanghai Masters but I won’t read too much into that. Hawkins did well in the next event in Yushan, making the quarter-final, but since then (late September) has done ‘sweet FA.’ He failed to make a quarter-final in the subsequent six events, with two of those being first-round exits.
Higgins has lost a first-round match here every other year since 2015 so he’s due at least to win this match with Hawkins to continue the pattern and I think he will do just that. Higgins is still the absolute kingpin of finding a way to win a snooker match, whether he’s playing total dross or ‘worldie’ stuff.
Hawkins has six first-round/match defeats in nine at the Masters and I sense that record is going to get uglier before midnight on Tuesday.
Predicted score: Higgins 6-4.