The absence of Ronnie O’Sullivan from this year’s Masters will have numerous players chalking their cues in anticipation of getting their hands on the first major trophy of 2020 - along with a cool £250k to boot.
Such a prize will take some winning, though, with only the top 16 players in the world receiving an invitation, in the process ensuring an ultra-tough tough route to the final. Such an assignment proved too much for some distinguished players in the past, while others relished the task, hence why some names appear more than others in the Masters Hall of Fame.
Last 10 Masters Finals
|2019||Judd Trump (6)||Ronnie O Sullivan (4)||10-4|
|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|
Judd Trump won his first Masters title 12 months ago having made the semi-finals on three occasions - a triumph that provided an ideal tonic ahead of Trump’s world championship win four months later. Trump also took that form into the current season, winning three of the first five ranking tournaments.
2019 Major Events
|July||Riga Masters||Yan Bingo||Mark Joyce||5-2|
|Aug||International Championship||Judd Trump||Shaun Murphy||10-3|
|Aug||Paul Hunter Classic||Barry Hawkins||Kyren Wilson||4-3|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||Ronnie O’Sullivan||Shaun Murphy||11-9|
|Sep||China Championship||Shaun Murphy||Mark Williams||10-9|
|Oct||English Open||Mark Selby||David Gilbert||9-1|
|Nov||World Open||Judd Trump||Thepchaiya un-Nooh||10-5|
|Nov||Champion of Champions||Neil Robertson||Judd Trump||10-9|
|Nov||Northern Ireland Open||Judd Trump||Ronnie O’Sullivan||9-7|
|Dec||UK Championship||Ding Junhui||Stephen Maguire||10-6|
|Dec||Scottish Open||Mark Selby||Jack Lisowski||9-6|
Nine of this season’s 11 major events were won by a top 16 ranked player, each of whom feature in the following close-up of snooker’s elite.
Last 10 Masters (latest first): W SF L16 SF L16 L16 QF SF N/A
2019-20 best finish: Winner (International Championship, World Open, Northern Ireland Open)
Recent form (latest first): L128 QF L32 W RU
Not only did Judd Trump land his first Masters 12 months ago, but he also secured a first world crown in Sheffield, ensuring that he lines-up to defend this crown as both the No.1 seed and world No.1. It’s been a career best year for the Ace, who looks to have finally ditched the flashy “crowd-pleasing shots” in favour of match winning snooker - a wise move indeed. His form this season saw him bag another three titles, and he arrives oozing confidence, despite an early exit in last month’s UK Championship - a tournament in which he made the final just twice in 12 attempts.
Verdict: Enjoying the year of his life and will be keen to defend the Masters, though a very tough opener against Shaun Murphy awaits.
Nickname: The Welsh Potting Machine
Last 10 Masters: L16 QF L16 L16 L16 N/A N/A QF QF L16 SF
2019-20 best finish: Runner-up (China Championship)
Recent form: L64 L64 RU L16 L64
Although Mark Williams lines-up as the No.2 seed, his form this season doesn’t justify such a lofty position. The dual Masters winner did well in turning back the clock to land the 2018 world crown, but hasn’t done a great deal since, including early exits in five of the six main events entered this term. He’s also failed to make a Masters final on his last 13 attempts (fell at the first hurdle in three of his last four visits) and is 8-8 in head-to-heads with first round opponent, Stuart Bingham. Should he make the last eight, then Kyren Wilson may await, who beat Williams 5-0, 4-1, 6-1, 3-1 & 5-1 during their last five meetings.
Verdict: Not enjoying a good season and Masters record nothing to shout about, hence the bookies offering 25-1 about a No.2 seed.
Nickname: The Thunder from Down Under
Last 10 Masters: SF N/A QF QF RU QF RU W QF L16
2019-20 best finish: Winner (Champion of Champions)
Recent form: L16 L16 L128 W L32
Neil Robertson was an 18-1 shot on his return to this tournament last year, but surpassed such odds in reaching the semi-final - making it three finals and one semi from his last seven attempts. Clearly, the Australian enjoys this tournament and appears to have hit form at the right time despite not enjoying the best of seasons. Indeed, he’s now won 14 of his last 17 matches, including the Champion of Champions trophy two months ago, and his Masters’ odds have been trimmed into 9-2 chance this time around.
Verdict: In decent form and goes well here.
Nickname: The Wizard of Wishaw
Last 10 Masters: L16 SF L16 QF L16 QF QF SF L16 L16
2019-20 best finish: Semi-final (World Open, Northern Ireland Open)
Recent form: L16 QF SF QF SF
Respect is given to the evergreen, John Higgins, who remains a force to be reckoned with on the tour. Confirmation of that was seen earlier this season when the Scotsman made two semi-finals - beating Mark Selby 5-4 in the quarter-finals of November’s Northern Ireland Open, before losing out 6-3 to Judd Trump in the last four. His ability in mixing it with the best remains, but questions surround his appetite for this competition, where he last made the final 14 years ago.
Verdict: Ability remains, but faces a tough draw and disappointed here in recent times.
Nickname: The Jester from Leicester
Last 10 Masters: QF L16 QF QF L16 RU W QF L16 W
2019-20 best finish: Winner (English Open, Scottish Open)
Recent form: L64 W L16 QF QF
Mark Selby put an end to a run of 14 ranking tournaments without a trophy when taking the English Open in October, prior to confirming his return to form by winning the recent Scottish Open. A 5-4 quarter-final victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the latter showed all the tenacity and fighting qualities Selby is renowned for, and he’ll need them if meeting Judd Trump in the semi-finals. While the Jester from Leicester failed to get past the last eight during his last five visits here, he did reach the final in three previous years - winning twice - and faces Ali Carter in his opener, whom he leads 19-12 in head-to-heads.
Verdict: Back to his best, knows how to win this and drawn well enough to gain early momentum.
Nickname: The Pistol
Last 10 Masters: L16 W, QF, QF, SF, L16, QF, L16, SF, QF
2019-20 best finish: Semi-final (six tournaments, including UK Championship)
Recent form: L64 L64 SF SF L16
The 2018 Masters winner was rewarded for a sequence of close efforts here, though he fell at the first hurdle in his defence 12 months ago. This season, Allen showed a string of consistency in making six semi-finals, (including the UK Championship and Scottish Open), while hitting the highest break in three tournaments. However, with two recent exits from the German Masters and European Masters, there is a concern whether he’s gone off the boil following a busy spell, and it would take a huge effort to win this title for a second occasion - Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Paul Hunter, Mark Williams, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis the last six players to win it more than once.
Verdict: In good form until two recent early exits, but capable of making big breaks and can’t be written off.
Nickname: The Warrior
Last 10 Masters: L16 RU L16
2019-20 best finish: Runner-up (Paul Hunter Classic)
Recent form: L64 L32 L64 L16 L16
Another year has slipped by without Kyren Wilson picking up an elusive first major title, but his time is surely near? The Warrior demonstrated all the hallmarks of a future major winner several years ago, and lived up that billing in making the 2018 Masters final and the world championship semi’s later that year, though disappointingly he hasn’t kicked on and isn’t enjoying a good season. That was confirmed via early exits at the UK Championship (last 64), Scottish Open (last 32) and recent German Masters (last 64).
Verdict: Promises to win a big one day, but not enjoying a great season.
Nickname: The Dragon
Last 10 Masters: SF L16 QF L16 L16 L16 L16 L16 W L16
2019-20 best finish: Winner (UK Championship)
Recent form: L32 W L128 L16 L128
Without doubt the best player to have emerged from Asia, Ding Junhui arrives at Ally Pally looking for a second Masters title following his 2011 success here. Still only 32, the Dragon has a habit of popping up to land a major every four or five years, as witnessed just last month when landing the UK Championship for the third time. It was a clear sign that Ding still has the game to trouble the best, and his semi-final slot here 12 months ago (lost 6-3 to Ronnie O’Sullivan) shows he still has the drive to get his hands back on the Masters title.
Verdict: Crowned UK champion for the third time last month and knows how to win this.
Nickname: The Magician
Last 10 Masters: L16 QF L16 L16 W SF SF RU L16 QF
2019-20 best finish: Winner (China Championship)
Recent form: L64 L16 L128 QF QF
While still very capable of winning the Masters, there is a feeling these days that Shaun Murphy has the profile of someone who makes the latter stages of majors without winning them. The may sound harsh considering Murphy won September’s China Championship, but he made just one of the last 12 major finals (2018 UK Championship). On the plus side, he did land the title here five years ago having previously made the 2012 final, though he’ll need to pull out something special with Judd Trump awaiting in the last 16 (trails 22-9 in head-to-heads).
Verdict: Usually thereabouts, but doesn’t win many majors and faces a tough opener.
Nickname: The Hawk
Last 10 Masters: QF L16 SF RU L16 L16 L16 NA NA NA
2019-20 best finish: Winner (Paul Hunter Classic)
Recent form: L128 L128 L64 L16 L32
Barry Hawkins is similar to Kyren Wilson in boasting a solid record at the big televised events without winning one, though unlike Wilson, the 40-year-old doesn’t have time on his side. The Hawk, however, did end a drought by winning the non-ranking Paul Hunter Classic in August, but hasn’t shone since, including his recent form when exiting early in three of his last four tournaments. A tough opener against John Higgins, before possible clashes against Mark Selby and Judd Trump even before the final, don’t add confidence.
Verdict: Won a non-ranking event in the summer, but out of form since, and may have missed his chance of nailing a big one.
Nickname: The Angry Farmer
Last 10 Masters: Debut
2019-20 best finish: Runner-up (English Open)
Recent form: L128 L128 SF L128 L128
Something of a late bloomer at 38, David Gilbert has deservedly earned a first crack at the Masters. Ranked outside snooker’s elite top 16 for the majority of his career, the Angry Farmer grafted his way up to No.11 in the world, courtesy of three ranking finals during the last 16 months. The Masters debutant showed some good form in making the Scottish Open semi’s last month too (beat Judd Trump 5-2 in the quarters), though two recent early exits in December’s European and German Masters’ qualifiers (both to No.76 in the world, Jordan Brown) takes the shine off.
Verdict: A gradual improver, but would do well to win first big title on debut in this tournament.
Last 10 Masters: L16 N/A L16 SF L16 L16 L16 L16 N/A N/A
2019-20 best finish: Quarter-final (World Open)
Recent form: L64 L64 L128 L16 L132
The 2015 world champion bounced back to form in landing a couple of ranking tournaments last season, but failed to repeat that during the current campaign. A quarter-final slot in the World Open prior to making the last 16 of the UK Championship were season highlights, compared to poor recent form when beaten by a trio of players ranked No.48, No.37 and No.34 in the world. Ball-run’s one hope is that he faces Mark Williams in the last 16, who hasn’t been at his best either.
Verdict: Struggling of late and only got beyond the last 16 once here in nine attempts.
Last 10 Masters: L16
2019-20 best finish: Runner-up (Scottish Open)
Recent form: L128 L64 RU L32 L128
Three ranking finals in the last last two seasons saw Jack Lisowski move up the rankings into the top 16 for the first time. His progression came mainly away from the majors, but last month’s Scottish Open Final appearance (lost 9-6 to Mark Selby) was a timely boost ahead of Ally Pally where he made his debut 12 months ago (lost 6-1 to Ding Junhui in the last 16). As with several others lining-up here, though, Jack-Pot showed disappointing form in two recent qualifiers for the German and European Masters, losing to players ranked No.61 and No.104.
Verdict: A long-term improver who made last month’s Scottish Open Final, but flopped in recent European qualifiers, and needs to show more than last year’s flop here.
Nickname: On Fire
Last 10 Masters: L16 NA NA L16 QF SF L16 L16 L16 SF
2019-20 best finish: Runner-up (UK Championship)
Recent form: L64 L128 L64 RU L16
Although Stephen Maguire isn’t “On Fire” as when first setting the scene alight in 2004, he did show some fire when runner-up in last month’s UK Championship. That was some revival from the 38-year-old considering his last ranking tournament win was seven years ago, though he’ll need to repeat that form if getting past Neil Robertson in the last 16, which hasn’t looked on the cards judged on his three outings since Scotland - dumped out in the last 64 (twice) and last 128.
Verdict: Made the UK final last month, but dipped since and yet to make the final here in 13 attempts.
Last 10 Masters: NA NA RU L16 QF L16 NA NA NA L16
2019-20 best finish: Semi-final (Northern Ireland Open)
Recent form: L128 L16 L32 SF L16
There may not be much excitement surrounding Joe Perry, but the admirable 45-year-old remains one of the most consistent and toughest players on the circuit. Such attributes helped Gentleman Joe make the 2017 final here, and he’ll be keen to repeat that on his first return since. His form this season offers hope, having made the Northern Ireland Open semi’s in November, while a recent run of 12 wins in 16 matches (lost twice to Ronnie O’Sullivan) could have Ding Junhui sweating in their opening clash at Ally Pally.
Verdict: No thrills, but in fair form and capable of making the semi-finals.
Nickname: The Captain
Last 10 Masters: NA L16 L16 NA QF NA L16 L16 L16 L16
2019-20 best finish: Last 16 (Northern Ireland Open)
Recent form: L64 L64 L32 L32 L16
Ali Carter’s twelfth appearance at the Masters comes via Ronnie O’Sullivan’s withdrawal, but that is compensation for a couple of above-par seasons in which The Captain flew back up the rankings. However, the Essex man struggled to make the latter stages during the current campaign, and he’d need to find something special if getting beyond the Masters’ quarter-finals for the first time, especially with Mark Selby first up.
Verdict: Form not special this term and hard to see him going deep for the first time with a tough draw to boot.
With the Masters very much an event for specialists, it’s worth taking a look at previous winners and their record in the tournament. along with recent form beforehand.
|Year||Winner||Previous year’s Masters||Best Masters||Recent form|
|2019||Judd Trump||Semi-final||Semi-final||SF L16 W QF QF|
|2018||Mark Allen||Quarter-final||Semi-final||L128 L16 L64 L16 RU|
|2017||Ronnie O’ Sullivan||Winner||Winner||QF RU L16 RU L16|
|2016||Ronnie O’ Sullivan||Semi-final||Winner||(Absent)|
|2015||Shaun Murphy||Semi-final||Semi-final||L128 L16 W L16 L32|
|2014||Ronnie O’ Sullivan||(Not entered)||Winner||QF W RU L32 L32|
|2013||Mark Selby||Quarter-final||Winner||W W L32 QF L16|
|2012||Neil Robertson||Quarter-final||Quarter-final||L128 SF L16 QF W|
|2011||Ding Junhui||Last 16||Runner-up||L16 L128 L64 L32 W|
|2010||Mark Selby||Runner-up||Winner||QF L32 L32 QF L16|
It’s worth noting that nine of the last 10 Masters winners made the semi-finals previously here, while seven reached the last eight or better 12 months beforehand. Add to that the importance of the current season’s form - where a final appearance during their last five outings proved key - and an interesting short-list of contenders emerges.
Featured in the list are the following four players, who line-up with an ideal profile, namely Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui.
The first of the quartet reluctantly scrapped is last year’s Masters winner and world No.1, Judd Trump, purely on the basis that it proved difficult to defend the Masters title. At 5-2, he looks short enough.
The next two in the market, Neil Robertson (9-2) and Mark Selby (7-1), look more interesting. Robertson has a good record at this tournament and looked sharp in last month’s European qualifiers when racking up century after century. Selby also looked near to his best this winter and knows how to win this tournament. A couple of years ago he would have been around the 3-1/4-1 mark for this, so 7-1 looks a price worth taking. Ding Junhui is also worth considering at 12-1 following his third UK title last month, though he doesn’t have a good record in putting back-to-back major wins together.
NAME THE FINALISTS
The top 10 seeds regularly contested the final of the Masters, with only 2008 throwing up a surprise when Mark Selby – the first winning seed in double-figures – beat Stephen Lee.
|Year||Seeds in Masters final|
|2019||4 beat 6|
|2018||8 beat 13|
|2017||1 beat 9|
|2016||6 beat 8|
|2015||11 beat 4|
|2014||2 beat 1|
|2013||3 beat 1|
|2012||5 beat 6|
|2011||9 beat 16|
|2010||7 beat 1|
|2009||7 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 stats also show seed 1 making the final on six occasions since 2003, three more than seed 2, while seeds 3 and 4 made five appearances between them. More informative is that only four of the last 34 finalists were seeded 12 or higher. Therefore, with two-thirds of the Masters finals since 2003 contested by two players in the top 10 seedings, odds of 14-1 about a Mark Selby/Neil Robertson are worth consideration.
HIGHEST BREAK SCORER
Several bookies priced this market up, and in recent years it threw up some surprise winners at big odds.
Highest breaks during last 10 Masters
|2019||140 – Luca Brecel|
|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|
Highest breaks this season
|July||Riga Masters||145 – Jack Lisowski|
|Aug||International Championship||141 – Mark Allen/Judd Trump|
|Aug||Paul Hunter Classic||120 – Barry Hawkins|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||142 – Barry Hawkins|
|Sep||China Championship||145 – Mark Allen|
|Oct||English Open||147 – Tom Ford|
|Nov||World Open||144 – Judd Trump|
|Nov||Champion of Champions||140 – Mark Allen|
|Nov||Northern Ireland Open||147 – Stuart Bingham|
|Dec||UK Championship||147 – Barry Hawkins|
|Dec||Scottish Open||143 – Jack Lisowski|
East Asia provided four of the last six highest break scorers at the Masters, with Ding Junhui the sole flag-bearer for that continent at Ally Pally this week. Ding hasn’t featured among this season’s big breaks, though, unlike Mark Allen (8-1), Barry Hawkins (20-1) and Jack Lisowski (22-1). Between them, the trio accounted for eight of the highest breaks from this season’s biggest 11 tournaments, yet they are available at juicy odds to come good again.
MAXIMUM 147 BREAK
A maximum 147 break was witnessed three times this season. However, a 147 was struck just three times in the Masters’ 45-year history – owing mainly to its short format of just 15 matches throughout the entire week. Marco Fu was the last player to knock in a 147 five years ago, with Ding Junhui doing likewise in 2007, but you have to go back to 1984 when Kirk Stevens racked up the tournament’s first. As for what the bookies make about a fourth maximum being struck here in 2020, then odds of 5-2 are available for 36 magical balls being potted, and 1-3 they aren’t.
LAST 16 MATCHES
There are usually several upsets in the first round of the Masters where the higher ranked players can crash out, as witnessed 12 months ago when the No.1, No.2 and No.5 seeds were sent home early, while in 2018, the No.2, No.4 and No.7 were beaten. With that in mind there could be several odds-against prices hitting the target in the first round, with Joe Perry 21-10 to beat Ding Junhui, David Gilbert 6-4 to beat Mark Allen and Jack Lisowski 5-4 to beat Kyren Wilson.
Masters 2020 best bets (scale 1-5 points):
3pts NEIL ROBERTSON TO WIN (9-2 general)
2pts MARK SELBY TO WIN (7-1 bet365, Betfair Sportsbook, Betway, BetVictor, Unibet)
HIGHEST BREAK SCORER
2pts MARK ALLEN (8-1 Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes)
1pt BARRY HAWKINS (20-1 Betfair Sportsbook, Betway, Paddy Power)
1pt JACK LISOWSKI (25-1 Boylesports, 22-1 bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes)
NAME THE FINALISTS
1pt NEIL ROBERTSON/MARK SELBY (14-1 bet365, Skybet, William Hill)