This week sees the 2013 Betfair Masters take place at Alexandra Palace. It is one of the game’s most prestigious events as it invites just the top 16 players to take part. No ranking points on offer, no easy opponents.
This year’s tournament will be as wide open as ever, with six former champions in the draw. The first match to take place is a battle of two former champions.
Defending champion Neil Robertson will be hoping to become the first man to defend the title since the late Paul Hunter. But he will have to overcome a resurgent Ding Junhui who won in 2011. Ding will take confidence from his recent tournament win at the Scottish open.
Sundays evening session features 2011 semi-finalist Mark Allen against Mark Davis, who recently had his best run in a major event by reaching the semi-finals of the UK Championship.
One of the ties of the first round sees two time champion John Higgins up against Ali Carter. Carter will be aware of the fact that in his seven appearances at the Masters he only has a single match win to his name.
Monday evenings draw features two Scotsman going head to head, former world champion Graeme Dott takes on world number six Stephen Maguire.
Tuesday will see perhaps the two easiest matches to call on paper. World number two Judd Trump faces Barry Hawkins who has never won a match at the masters. Trump may feel he has to prove a point after a terrible showing last month at the UK Championship. Despite this the bookies still make him favourite.
The other Tuesday tie sees last year’s runner up Shaun Murphy tackle the very capable Ricky Walden. Walden may struggle with experience at the masters having only ever made one appearance at the event previously.
The final day of first round action sees a battle between two Welshman and former masters champions Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens, as well as a mouth-watering bout between world number one Mark Selby and the most improved player on the tour Stuart Bingham.
Selby will be much fancied after winning the UK Championship last month. If he was to win the tournament he would become the sixth man to win the Master on three occasions. He would join O’Sullivan, Hunter, Hendry, Thorburn and Davis on the list.
More action about the tournament will be found right here at The Sporting Week in the coming weeks.