The betting for this year’s Masters, which gets underway on Sunday at Alexandra Palace in London and features the world’s top 16 players, has something of a retro look to it, with Ronnie O’Sullivan the clear favourite ahead of the chasing pack.
The Rocket has shown no signs of slowing this season, making four finals and winning three. Such form makes him a popular choice at 9-4, with his nearest pursuer in the market Mark Selby at 8-1. O’Sullivan will certainly be up for winning an eighth Masters crown, especially with a first prize of £200k, though several in-form rivals will be out to stop him, including both Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson, who played out last year’s final.
Last 10 Masters Finals
|2018||Mark Allen (8)||Kyren Wilson (13)||10-7|
|2017||Ronnie O Sullivan (1)||Joe Perry (9)||10-7|
|2016||Ronnie O Sullivan (8)||Barry Hawkins (6)||10-1|
|2015||Shaun Murphy (11)||Neil Robertson (4)||10-2|
|2014||Ronnie O Sullivan (2)||Mark Selby (1)||10-4|
|2013||Mark Selby (3)||Neil Robertson (1)||10-6|
|2012||Neil Robertson (5)||Shaun Murphy (6)||10-6|
|2011||Ding Junhui (9)||Marco Fu (16)||10-4|
|2010||Mark Selby (7)||Ronnie O Sullivan (1)||10-9|
|2009||Ronnie O Sullivan (2)||Mark Selby (1)||10-8|
Mark Allen won his first Masters title at the tenth attempt 12 months ago – a victory that kick-started an impressive run of form that saw Allen scoop two more titles this season.
2018/19 Major Events
|July||Riga Masters||N Robertson||J Lisowski||5-2|
|Aug||World Open||M Williams||D Gilbert||10-9|
|Aug||Paul Hunter Classic||K Wilson||P Ebdon||4-2|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||R O’Sullivan||B Hawkins||11-9|
|Sep||China Championship||M Selby||J Higgins||10-9|
|Oct||European Masters||J Robertson||J Perry||9-6|
|Oct||English Open||S Bingham||M Davis||9-7|
|Nov||International Champ’||M Allen||N Robertson||10-5|
|Nov||Champion of Champ’||R O’Sullivan||K Wilson||10-9|
|Nov||N Ireland Open||J Trump||R O’Sullivan||9-7|
|Dec||UK Championship||R O’Sullivan||M Allen||10-6|
|Dec||Scottish Open||M Allen||S Murphy||9-7|
Eleven of this season’s major events were won by a top 16 ranked player, all of whom are listed below in our close-up of snooker’s elite.
Nickname: The Pistol
Last 10 Masters: W, QF, QF, SF, L16, QF, L16, SF, QF, QF
2018/19 best finish: Winner (International Championship & Scottish Open)
You would do well to find a more in-form player than the reigning Masters champion, Mark Allen, who added two more titles this season following last January’s win here. The latter of those titles came in the recent Scottish Open last month when Allen gained compensation for having lost to the UK Championship final to Ronnie O’Sullivan a week before. That victory makes the Irishman a 12-1 shot to defend his Masters crown, having arrived at Ally Pally a 28-1 chance last year, and he a very kind opener against an out-of-form, Luca Brecel, could trigger a successful defence.
Verdict: Arrives in terrific form to defend his crown and is drawn well enough to make the semi-finals at least.
Nickname: The Welsh Potting Machine
Last 10 Masters: QF L16 L16 L16 N/A N/A QF QF L16 SF N/A
2018/19 best finish: Winner (World Open)
Mark Williams capped an admirable turnaround in his form over the last 18 months, which resulted in him landing the biggest title of all – the World Championship, back in May. It was the Welshman’s third world crown, and a victory that saw him climb back up to No.2 in the world. The dual Masters winner’s form has fizzled out a touch since August’s World Open win, however, and he’ll need to find his touch ahead of a tough opener against Neil Robertson, whom he trails 5-14 in head-to-heads.
Verdict: Not in the same form as earlier this year and faces a tricky opener.
Nickname: The Jester from Leicester
Last 10 Masters: L16 QF QF L16 RU W QF L16 W RU
2018/19 best finish: Winner (China Championship)
Despite retaining his No.1 ranking, Mark Selby won only two of his last 20 tournaments entered, hence why the bookies pushed him out to 8-1 to land a third Masters title. His last four visits to Ally Pally saw Selby fall at the quarter-finals stage, and Stephen Maguire awaits this time around, who Selby only narrowly leads 13-12. A first round exit at last month’s UK Championship may also cause concern for his followers, though some may point out September’s China Championship victory in September when beating John Higgins 10-9.
Verdict: Hit-and-miss this season and will need to rediscover his very best if making an impact.
Nickname: The Rocket
Last 10 Masters: QF W W SF W N/A QF L16 RU W
2018/19 best finish: Winner (UK Championship, Shanghai Masters, Champion of Champions)
With three titles already under his belt this term, the bookies have Ronnie O’Sullivan a touch shorter at 9-4 – he was 5-2 last year – to land an eighth Masters title. The Rocket’s biggest victory came in last month’s UK Championship when pushing each opponent aside with ease, and he’ll arrive here fresh high on confidence having bypassed the Scottish Open. As for who might stop Ronnie, then an opening encounter with Stuart Bingham will hold no fears – he leads the fellow Essex man 14-3 in head-to-heads (including two recent victories) – though sterner tests could await against John Higgins in the quarters or Mark Allen in the semis.
Verdict: In top form and boasts a terrific record here. Will take some stopping.
Nickname: The Wizard of Wishaw
Last 10 Masters: SF L16 QF L16 QF QF SF L16 L16 SF
2018/19 best finish: Runner-up (China Championship)
John Higgins went some way to making up for a poor Masters record – for his standards, anyway – when making last year’s semi-finals, and arrives having shown some form in the recent Scottish Open. Despite declaring a loss of enthusiasm for snooker during the autumn, Higgins bounced back at his home tournament when making a 147 break just last month, and will look forward to an opening tie against Ryan Day, whom he beat 6-1 in last year’s quarter-finals here.
Verdict: Made his last Masters final 13 years ago and may have to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan en route to make another.
Last 10 Masters: SF L16 SF L16 L16 QF SF N/A N/A
2018/19 best finish: Winner (Northern Ireland Open)
Judd Trump has yet to land the Masters in eight attempts, but with two semi-final appearances in his last three visits, the signs are he is getting closer. Trump also received a huge confidence-booster when beating Ronnie O’Sullivan to win November’s Northern Ireland Open, while a recent Scottish Open semi-final appearance bodes well. Trump has a tough nut to crack in Kyren Wilson when they clash on Wednesday, but if he gets through that test a good tournament could lie in wait.
Verdict: Enjoying a good season and edging closer in this tournament. Holds a live chance.
Nickname: The Hawk
Last 10 Masters: L16 SF RU L16 L16 L16 NA NA NA NA
2018/19 best finish: Runner-up (Shanghai Masters)
Despite making the final of September’s Shanghai Masters, Barry Hawkins hasn’t performed to his best since, though he’ll be buoyed by being back in front of the BBC cameras. Hawkins maintains an excellent record in the big televised events having made the world semis in May, and faces Shaun Murphy in his opener, whom he beat 6-1 here in 2017.
Verdict: Having a moderate season but raises his game for the big events and another semi-final is within range.
Nickname: The Dragon
Last 10 Masters: L16 QF L16 L16 L16 L16 L16 W L16 QF
2018/19 best finish: Semi-final (Shanghai Masters)
Ding Junhui is another of the top 10 seeds who hasn’t been in the greatest form of late – losing 6-4 to the relatively unknown, Martin O’Donnell, in the last 16 of the UK Championship. Ding’s followers will be hoping he can relive the glory of his 2011 victory here, but he hasn’t fired much in seven visits since, exiting at the first hurdle on six occasions.
Verdict: Just one title during the last two seasons and hasn’t sparkled much here in recent years.
Nickname: The Thunder from Down Under
Last 10 Masters: N/A QF QF RU QF RU W QF L16 QF
2018/19 best finish: Winner (Riga Masters)
Neil Robertson will be happy returning to the Masters having missed out 12 months ago, and his record suggests he doesn’t just come to make up the numbers. Indeed, Robertson made three Masters finals from his last six attempts, while winning his opening match during the last seven visits – a record that he could maintain against Mark Williams, whom he beat in six of their last seven meetings.
Verdict: Likes this tournament and one of the more interesting outsiders.
Nickname: The Warrior
Last 10 Masters: RU L16
2018/19 best finish: Winner (Paul Hunter Classic)
Having already made two finals this season – one of which was converted into a second ranking title – Kyren Wilson has the profile of a youngster who still has his best years ahead of him. His progressive curve continues in the right direction having reached his first world championship semi-final in May, while making the Masters final 12 months ago at just the second attempt. Judd Trump in his opener won’t be easy, but The Warrior took care of that rival 6-5 in last year’s semi-final here.
Verdict: On the up and should be winning one of the major televised events soon.
Nickname: The Magician
Last 10 Masters: QF L16 L16 W SF SF RU L16 QF L16
2018/19 best finish: Runner-up (Scottish Open)
Sean Murphy’s season hadn’t really got going until making the semis of November’s Champion of Champions, before finishing runner-up to Mark Allen in the recent Scottish Open. Murphy also knocked in three centuries in the German Masters qualifiers just three weeks ago, suggesting his return to form makes him a real contender. The 36-year-old certainly knows what it takes having won here four years ago having previously made the 2012 final, and faces Barry Hawkins in the last 16, whom he leads 11-6 in previous meetings.
Verdict: A recent return to form puts him in the reckoning to land a second Masters title at big odds.
Last 10 Masters: N/A L16 SF L16 L16 L16 L16 N/A N/A N/A
2018/19 best finish: Winner (English Open)
A run of ups and downs has seen Stuart Bingham slide down the rankings from No.2 just a few years ago, though victory in October’s English Open and a semi-final slot in last month’s UK Championship offer encouragement. Ball-run also reached the semis here during his purple patch three years ago, but he’ll need to be at his best when tackling Ronnie O’Sullivan in a very tough opener.
Verdict: Hasn’t recaptured his 2015 world crown form and tough opener against Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Last 10 Masters: QF N/A, N/A, N/A, N/A, N/A, N/A, N/A, QF, L16
2018/19 best finish: Quarter-final (five tournaments)
Having missed the Masters for seven years, Ryan Day made his return last year when reaching the quarter-finals, prior to kicking on and winning two ranking titles this season. It’s been a return to form that sees the Welshman creep back into the top 16, though he faces John Higgins in his opener, whom he lost 6-1 to in last year’s Masters.
Verdict: Playing well this year but hard to see him winning the title.
Nickname: On Fire
Last 10 Masters: NA NA L16 QF SF L16 L16 L16 SF SF
2018/19 best finish: Semi-final (Riga Masters & English Open)
Stephen Maguire will line-up here for the first time since 2016, and previously reached four Masters semi-finals. The Scotsman also reached a couple of semis this season, and while he looks an unlikely winner of this event in what will be his thirteenth attempt, he could make life hard for Mark Selby in Wednesday night’s clash.
Verdict: Consistent, but making the semi-finals is could be his limit.
Nickname: Belgian Bullet
Last 10 Masters: L16
2018/19 best finish: Last 16 (Northern Ireland Open)
Luca Brecel’s march up the rankings rose year-on year since 2012, but the current season has been one to forget – and life won’t get any easier with an in-form, Mark Allen, awaiting in Sunday afternoon’s opening match. The Belgian failed to get beyond the last 16 in each of this term’s 12 tournaments, as was the case when falling at the first here last year, and he’ll need something special if making his first quarter-final of the season.
Verdict: Did well to climb the rankings prior to this season’s nightmare campaign, and up against it.
Last 10 Masters: Debut
2018/19 best finish: Runner-up (Riga Masters)
The only Masters debutant in the line-up and also the lowest ranked player in the field, but not totally ignored in the betting at 33-1. Having made the Riga Masters final in July, Jack Lisowski also made the International Championship semis in November when going down 9-7 to Neil Robertson – clear signs that he is a player on the rise. Should the occasion not prove too much, then the 27-year-old could give Ding Junhui plenty to think about on Monday evening.
Verdict: Making gradual progress and capable of doing himself justice on Masters debut.
Before deciding on who of this year’s main contenders gets the vote, it’s worth looking at previous Masters winners and what their record was in this prestige tournament, along with their form beforehand.
|Year||Winner||Previous year’s Masters||Best Masters||Recent form|
|2018||M Allen||Quarter-final||Semi-final||L128 L16 L64 L16 RU|
|2017||R O’ Sullivan||Winner||Winner||QF RU L16 RU L16|
|2016||R O’ Sullivan||Semi-final||Winner||(Absent)|
|2015||S Murphy||Semi-final||Semi-final||L128 L16 W L16 L32|
|2014||R O’ Sullivan||(Not entered)||Winner||QF W RU L32 L32|
|2013||M Selby||Quarter-final||Winner||W W L32 QF L16|
|2012||N Robertson||Quarter-final||Quarter-final||L128 SF L16 QF W|
|2011||D Junhui||Last 16||Runner-up||L16 L128 L64 L32 W|
|2010||M Selby||Runner-up||Winner||QF L32 L32 QF L16|
|2009||R O’ Sullivan||Last 16||Winner||L16 W L32 QF RU|
Each of the last 10 Masters winners previously made the quarters-finals of the competition at least, with nine making the semis or final. As for recent form, then eight of the last 10 won a tournament during their previous five outings – one of the exceptions was Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2016 when he arrived here following an absence.
O’Sullivan is again massively respected, but his odds of 9-4 are skinny enough considering he could meet John Higgins and an in-form Mark Allen before the final, suggesting there may be better value via The Rocket in the Name The Finalists market.
Away from O’Sullivan in the bottom half of the draw is Kyren Wilson (16-1), who went down narrowly 10-7 to Mark Allen in last year’s Masters final. Wilson has enjoyed a good season to date, reaching two finals and winning one, which was a common theme with past Masters winners. His appearance in May’s world championship semis was another sign that Wilson is coming of age in the big televised tournaments and it can only be a matter of time before he wins one of the three majors.
Also heading to north London in fine fettle is Shaun Murphy (25-1), who reached the recent Scottish Open final and knows what it takes to win the Masters. He racked up three centuries in a recent qualifier for the German Masters and could take some stopping if getting on a roll.
NAME THE FINALISTS
The top 10 seeds regularly contested the final of the Masters, with only 2008 throwing up a real surprise when Mark Selby – who was the first winning seed in double-figures – beat Stephen Lee.
|Year||Seeds in Masters final|
|2018||8 beat 13|
|2017||1 beat 9|
|2016||8 beat 6|
|2015||4 beat 11|
|2014||2 beat 1|
|2013||3 beat 1|
|2012||5 beat 6|
|2011||9 beat 16|
|2010||7 beat 1|
|2009||2 beat 1|
|2008||11 beat 13|
|2007||5 beat wildcard|
|2006||7 beat 1|
|2005||2 beat 5|
|2004||8 beat 3|
|2003||4 beat 7|
The above table also shows seed 1 making the final on six occasions since 2003, three more than seed 2, while seeds 3 and 4 made two appearances apiece. More informative is that only three of the last 32 finalists were seeded 12 or higher.
With two-thirds of Masters finals since 2003 contested by two players in the top 10 seedings, odds of 10-1 about a Ronnie O’Sullivan/Judd Trump final look attractive, while both Ronnie O’Sullivan/Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan/Kyren Wilson are also well priced as 18-1.
HIGHEST BREAK SCORER
Several bookies have priced this market up, and in recent years it threw up some surprise winners at big odds.
Highest breaks during last 10 Masters
|2018||139 – Liang Wenbo|
|2017||141 – Marco Fu|
|2016||140 – Judd Trump|
|2015||147 – Marco Fu|
|2014||138 – Marco Fu|
|2013||138 – Mark Allen|
|2012||141 – Ronnie O’ Sullivan|
|2011||142 – Stephen Maguire|
|2010||140 – S Maguire & N Robertson|
|2009||140 – John Higgins|
East Asia provided four of the last five highest break scorers at the Masters, while this year’s 7-2 favourite, Ronnie O’Sullivan, took the accolade just once in 10 years. You can’t write the Rocket off, though, as he struck two of the highest breaks this season, including a maximum at the English Open.
Highest breaks this season
|Oct||English Open||147 – Ronnie O’Sullivan|
|Nov||Champion of Champ’||147 – Mark Selby|
|Dec||Scottish Open||147 – John Higgins|
|Nov||International Champ’||146 – Mark Allen|
|Dec||UK Championship||145 – Stuart Bingham|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||140 – Ronnie O’Sullivan 140 – Stuart Bingham|
It was another player from Essex that made the highest break at last month’s UK Championship in Stuart Bingham, who was also joint-highest with the Rocket in the Shanghai Masters. Bingham looks a fair 22-1 chance, while Neil Robertson (8-1) racked up the most centuries this season, along with Judd Trump (13-2). Of the trio, Robertson gets the nod, especially as he hit the joint-highest break at the 2010 Masters
Most centuries this season
MAXIMUM 147 BREAK
A maximum 147 break has already been witnessed three times this season by Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Selby, and there will plenty in the Ally Pally crown this week hoping for another. The fact remains, however, that a 147 was struck just three times in the Masters’ 44-year history – possibly owing to its short format of just 15 matches throughout the entire week.
Marco Fu was the last player to knock in a 147 four years ago, with Ding Junhui doing likewise in 2007, though you have to go back to 1984 when Kirk Stevens racked up the tournament’s first. As for what the bookies think about a fourth maximum being struck here in 2019, then they go 2-1 it will happen, and 4-9 it won’t. Let’s hope the bookies get it wrong and a magical 36 balls are potted!
LAST 16 MATCHES
With the top 16 players in the world meeting from the outset, there are plenty of tasty clashes from the outset, including Mark Williams versus Neil Robertson. The former won the world crown in May, ensuring he goes into this match as favourite, but hasn’t looked in the same form of late, unlike the Australian, who looked sharp in a recent qualifier for the German Masters. The pick of the prices is Robertson to win 6-5 or 6-4, both available at 7-1.
Another upset could be on the cards when Ding Junhui takes on Jack Lisowski. While this will be a relatively new experience for Lisowski with the one-table format in front of the live cameras, Junhui has exited at the stage in five of the last six years and his form this season suggests he could be vulnerable. Lisowski to win 6-5 is 7-1.
One match that may not be as close is Sunday’s opening encounter between reigning champion, Mark Allen, and Luca Brecel. The two players arrive in contrasting form with Allen flying and Brecel struggling, so a possible Allen 6-0 whitewash or 6-1 victory look possible at 14-1 and 6-1 respectively.
Masters 2019 best bets (scale 1-5 points):
2pts KYREN WILSON TO WIN (14-1 general)
1pt SHAUN MURPHY TO WIN (25-1 bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes)
NAME THE FINALISTS
1pt RONNIE O’SULLIVAN/JUDD TRUMP (10-1 Coral, Ladbrokes, 9-1 general)
1pt RONNIE O’SULLIVAN/KYREN WILSON (14-1 general)
1pt RONNIE O’SULLIVAN/NEIL ROBERTSON (18-1, Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes)
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
1pt MARK ALLEN TO BEAT LUCA BRECEL 6-0 (14-1 bet365, 12-1 Betfred, Boylesports, William Hill)
1pt MARK ALLEN TO BEAT LUCA BRECEL 6-1 (6-1 bet365, Betfred, Boylesports, William Hill)
1pt JACK LISOWSKI TO BEAT DING JUNHUI 6-5 (15-2 Betfair Sportsbook, 7-1 Betfred, William Hill, 13-2 general)
1pt NEIL ROBERTSON TO BEAT MARK WILLIAMS 6-5 (7-1 Betfair Sportsbook, Coral, Ladbrokes)
1pt NEIL ROBERTSON TO BEAT MARK WILLIAMS 6-4 (7-1 Betfair Sportsbook,Coral, Ladbrokes, William Hill)
HIGHEST BREAK SCORER
1pt NEIL ROBERTSON (8-1 bet365, Boylesports)