It is strange how a non-ranking event has become the most prestigious tournament on the snooker circuit. This is, of course, The Masters one of the top three tournaments in the game alongside the UK Championship and the World Championship. The tournament is an invitational event only and those invitations are for the top sixteen players in the world at the close of the UK Championship for the season. The only one of the current top sixteen not attending in 2018 is Stuart Bingham (ranked 12th) who is banned from the sport at the moment. So Liang Wenbo gets the bonus of taking his place in the tournament.
The action is all going down at the Ally Pally again in London and it starts on January 14th and concludes on the 21st. This will be the 44th edition of the tournament and one man is pretty much running the betting show at the moment and that is Ronnie O’Sullivan, for a few main reasons really. The obvious reason is that he is one of the greatest that the game has ever produced. The others are his current form and tournament history.
Rocket Returns as favourite
O’Sullivan won last year’s Masters, taking down Joe Perry in the final and ‘The Rocket’ is 5/2 odds-on favourite to win the title again this year. The 2017 victory was his seventh Masters title during his career (not to mention his five runner-up places as well) and that victory made him the most successful player in the history of the tournament. It was also his third Masters title in the last four editions as well. It’s fair to say that he has made the tournament his own pretty much over the years.
O’Sullivan is not only the defending champion and has a great track record in the Masters, but he is also in great current form. He has won two of the last four ranking events this season, claiming the titles at the Shanghai Masters and the big one at the UK Championship. That UK Championship title gives him the first leg of this season’s triple crown tournaments (Masters and the World Championship). So he is carrying great form and on top of that, he has a good draw as well.
O’Sullivan’s main contenders are Mark Selby and Judd Trump, the second and third seeds respectively. They are squished together in the bottom half of the draw though and also in there is Shaun Murphy the 2015 Champion and it should leave O’Sullivan with a fairly straightforward route to the final if he is dialled in. He opens against Marco Fu and would then play the winner of the Mark Allen v Luca Brecel matches in the quarterfinals. Potential semi-final opponents could be Ding Junhui or John Higgins. Both of those are former Masters champions, Ding getting his title in 2011 while Higgins has won it twice, in 1999 and 2006.
From the main contenders in the bottom half of the draw, Mark Selby is in a decent bit of form, winning the International Championship title in November, while Judd Trump took the European Masters the month before. Selby has a good record at the Masters with three titles from five finals, while Trump is looking to make the final for the first time. Those two could come together at the semi-final stage and Selby would likely take favouritism.
Top Betting Tip:
As the draw is lining up, an O’Sullivan/Selby wager in the Name The Finalists Markets is not a bad option at 5/1. O’Sullivan facing Trump in the final is a 7/1 jolly. As for the outright winner, it is hard to look past O’Sullivan as all the cards seem to be stacking up in his favour.