OUR snooker expert Ed Acteson (@EdActeson) casts his eye over the Masters. Who is he backing for glory?
Masters Snooker | 10th-17th January 2016 | BBC
The 2016 Masters begins at the Ally Pally on the 10th January and the industry has made Ronnie O’Sullivan marginal favourite over Neil Robertson to take the prize.
The Rocket is considered by many to be the greatest talent the game has seen but he has endured a 2015 to forget and as far as I’m concerned is too short here.
O’Sullivan played his first competitive snooker in seven months last week in the German Masters qualification, where he was unceremoniously dispatched in the second round by Stuart Carrington.
His record in 2015 is P30-W22-L8 and a 73% win rate isn’t enough to convince me to back him at this price, especially given his lack of match practice and the daunting prospect of having to beat Mark Selby, John Higgins and Robertson in order to win the title.
So if not Ronnie, then who? The obvious candidate and most likely winner in my eyes is Neil Robertson, also 9/2. Robertson is the form player in the world right now after consecutive victories in the UK Championship and Champion of Champions, the former featuring a merciless 6-0 semi-final drubbing of my tip Mark Selby.
If he carries that form into this tournament he should win it but, again, 9/2 isn’t a price that gets the pulses racing and I would rather look for value elsewhere.
John Higgins is someone whose chances I like. He came closest to knocking out Robertson in the UK Championship, eventually succumbing in a final frame decider.
Twice a winner already this season, Higgins is enjoying a resurgence and his route looks favourable. He opens against Liang Wenbo, the recent UK Championship runner up whose run to the final was made significantly easier with a spate of upsets in his half.
He shouldn’t trouble Higgins and nor should the woefully out of form pairing of Ding Junhui or Stuart Bingham, the winner of whom will lie waiting in the 2nd round.
Higgins should reach the semi-finals where things will heat up with Selby or O’Sullivan looming. It won’t be easy but is significantly more winnable than passing any two of Shaun Murphy, Judd Trump or Robertson who will fight for supremacy in the other half. At 12/1 Higgins has a great chance of a run to the final and that is where my money is going.
As touched upon, should he reach the final I suspect he will encounter Robertson and in the ‘name the finalists’ market, I see a way of supporting the Aussie without having to back a skinny outright price.
A final of Higgins v Robertson is available at 20/1 which seems a good way to top up each way returns should Higgins then fall at the final hurdle.
Furthermore, despite letting me down in the UK Championship I wouldn’t completely write Mark Selby off and as such will have a saver on the Robertson v Selby final at 14/1. All in all, as long as Robertson makes the final, it should yield profit.
Finally I believe there is a misprice in the 1st round where Joe Perry is 11/10 to conquer Barry Hawkins. In the five significant tournaments played this season, Hawkins’ record reads; P7-W3-L4.
He hasn’t progressed past the last 16 and his losses have come to Martin Gould, Jimmy Robertson, Mark Allen and Zhou Yuelong.
Conversely, Joe Perry’s record is; P14-W9-L5. He’s reached a semi final as well as two quarters and lost to Higgins twice, Kyren Wilson, Neil Robertson and Robbie Williams. With the exception of Williams, every one of Perry’s losses came against the eventual tournament champion.
The stats don’t lie; in the important tournaments Perry has comprehensively outperformed Hawkins in terms of wins, tournament progression and the calibre of opposition he has lost against.
Even the pair’s career head to head goes in Perry’s favour with seven wins and two losses. I don’t understand why Hawkins is favourite and will be putting my money where my mouth is.
Masters Snooker – John Higgins each way (12/1 Ladbrokes)
Masters Snooker – John Higgins v Neil Robertson Final (20/1 Sportingbet)
Masters Snooker – Mark Selby v Neil Robertson Final (14/1 Sportingbet)
Masters Snooker – Joe Perry to beat Barry Hawkins (11/10 BetVictor)
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