SUNDAY sees the beginning of one of the most prestigious titles in the snooker world: the Dafabet Masters. The event will again be held at the Alexandra Palace, which has hosted the event since 2012 and is the scene of the recent World’s Darts Championship which was won by Englishman Gary Anderson.
Ronnie O’Sullivan – widely recognised as the greatest player of all time – will be there, having not played a competitive match since April, when the eventual champion of the World Championships, Stuart Bingham, knocked him out in the quarter-finals. The Essex-born star, who recently received an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list divides opinion, but nobody can deny his talent. Snooker is in a much better place with it.
The Masters is part of Snooker’s Triple Crown, alongside the aforementioned World Championships and the UK Championships. For the time being at least, Great Britain remains the epicentre of world snooker. How long this can continue, nobody knows, as more ranking events are taking place throughout Europe and there is even talk of a World Championship taking place in China at some point in the future. Famously, it has been reported that Shanghai has more snooker clubs than the whole of Britain put together as the market in Asia for the game is growing massively. This would, however, be bad news for Sheffield, whose Crucible theatre has seen so much drama throughout the years, and is widely recognised as the home of snooker.
Neil Robertson, the ‘thunder from down under’, will be looking to impose his aggressive game and is certainly one of the stars to watch. The Australian won the UK Championships held in York last month and has been installed by some bookmakers as second favourite to win this famous competition behind Ronnie himself. Mark Selby will also be looking to add to his tally of major titles, having appeared in four Masters Finals since 2008, winning two of them. The charismatic Englishman, who is described as the jester from Leicester due to his moments of comedy and charisma at the snooker table is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining players in the game. But when he is playing his best snooker the world’s number one has to be taken seriously.
Shaun Murphy is the defending champion of the tournament and was runner up at the Crucible last year. The world number four will be defending his crown after an embarrassing loss to a fifteen-year-old in November in the Champion of Champions event. All sporting greats are entitled to a surprise defeat mind and this does not have any impact on his chances of winning the title a week on Sunday. His victor at the World Championships Stuart Bingham will also be there, as will many of the sport’s top names. John Higgins has been on great form over the last season, perhaps he will be adding to his impressive tally of this time around, with his vast experience in the big occasions, and his record in titles (28 ranking titles), nobody can count him out.
This is not just any snooker tournament, it is one with only the players at the top of the rankings, meaning there are inevitably going to be high-profile matches from the beginning. Only the top 16 players are invited to play, with occasional wildcards. Barry Hearn has stated that he wants to make snooker more popular to the public and would like to make some changes to the game, but this is a tournament that has to stay. It is the tournament of champions, of the world’s greatest players facing each other over a week, with a prize money of roughly £200,000. This is a colossal event, kicking off the snooker season in style. Without it, the game would simply be a lot worse off.
Featured image: Blog Betway