The first round of the 2013 Betfair Masters has been completed. Half of them have been tight 6-5, final frame deciders. The others haven’t been a walk in the park, either. With the top 16 players in the world, every match is a tough one. So, who’ll win?
As we reach the quarter-finals, seven of the last eight are British, with only Australia’s Neil Robertson from foreign shores. Hardly surprisingly when Robertson and Ding Junhui of China were the only non-Brits in the draw. Robertson faces Mark Allen in the next round, but there’ll be a guaranteed minimum of three British snooker players in the Masters semi-final and at least one in the final.
My history with predictions isn’t perfect, by any means. In fact, it’s pretty shambolic as far as football and the Europa League go. But I’ve been watching the Masters closely on television and I have my eye on a couple of individuals who have a chance of reaching the final.
Neil Robertson vs Mark Allen
The Aussie potter was taken all the way in his opening match against Junhui, but that shouldn’t be a signal of his inability to grab a decisive win. His opponent was a fierce one, a man who rarely missed his chances. Even so, Robertson was allowed back in and its that determination that will make him a tough opponent for Allen. The two have met plenty of times in recent years but Robertson has the recent form over the Northern Irishman and I anticipate he’ll be far too strong for Allen again.
Shaun Murphy vs John Higgins
Murphy looked far from confident against Ricky Walden and it was only his experience that got him across the finish line. Higgins had an incredibly tough opener against Ali Carter, but the 6-3 win owed as much to Carter’s mistakes as it did to Higgins’ skill. The two-times champion will be glad to get past the first round barrier that has hounded him many times, but it doesn’t get any easier. The quarter-final against Murphy should be the toughest one and I expect Higgins to edge the deciding frame.
Mark Selby vs Mark Williams
I’m afraid to say I saw nothing of the all-Welsh between Williams and Matthew Stevens but I hear it was a sloppy match. Nothing like that between world number one Mark Selby and Premier League winner Stuart Bingham. At one point, I expected another humiliating loss for the Leicester man but he knew just how to make it through and it should be a much easier match for him this time. No 6-0 whitewash, but I wouldn’t go too far from it.
Graeme Dott vs Judd Trump
I’ve been critical of Trump in the past, but I saw just how exciting he can be against Barry Hawkins. The 6-5 scoreline suggests another near-miss for the former number one, but Hawkins was no chump and Trump had to pull out all the tricks just to make it through. Dott, on the other hand, combined perfect shots with some stifling snooker to frustrate Stephen Maguire and I expect he may get to Trump, too. Even so, Judd is getting into the groove and he should progress. Might be close, though.
As far as my predictions go, the semi-finals look to be Robertson/Higgins and Selby/Trump. Mouth-watering match-ups that only the Masters can provide. Who knows if that’ll even be the case? Still, I’ll stick my neck out and plump for a Higgins/Trump final. As to the question of who’ll pick up the trophy? I’m not saying…