A look ahead to the first day’s play at Alexandra Palace, with stats, analysis and TV times.
MARK SELBY v MARK DAVIS
30 Age 41
2 Ranking 14
29 Centuries this season 11
7 Masters appearances (inc. 2014) 3
Winner 3 times Best Masters performance Last 16 twice
THE CASE FOR SELBY
The Leicester man has lost only three of his 19 matches in the Masters, with three title victories and a runners-up spot to his name. His only first round defeat came in 2011 and though he was naturally disappointed to lose in the UK Championship final last month his run in York marked a return to form after a relatively unproductive season.
THE CASE FOR DAVIS
One of the most improved performers on the tour in recent years, Davis’s rise is largely unprecedented, coming at a time where players are supposed to be entering a decline. He has every reason to believe that he deserves to be keeping company with the best players in the world.
“Every time you go to the Masters you get a buzz and being defending champion just raises that up a notch from competing as one of the top 16” – Mark Selby.
Selby is a Masters form-horse and his 8-0 head-to-head record with Davis only reinforces his status as heavy favourite to come through this one.
STUART BINGHAM v JOHN HIGGINS
37 Age 38
7 Ranking 12
23 Centuries this season 19
5 Masters appearances (inc. 2014) 20
Last 16 3 times Best Masters performance Winner twice
THE CASE FOR BINGHAM
The Essex man was certainly one of the in form players at the end of 2013 having reached the Champion of Champions final and run Neil Robertson to a deciding frame in the semi-finals of the UK Championship. Has never been past the last 16 of the Masters but goes into this year’s event playing some of the best snooker of his life.
THE CASE FOR HIGGINS
This has been an odd tournament for the Scot, who has twice been champion and twice runner-up but also a first round loser ten times in 19 appearances. He is due to get going again after a disappointing season and, though he’s been lacking form of late, certainly has the class.
“I beat John the first time we played in the Welsh Open but since then he’s trounced me a few times. It’ll be a tough game. He’s one of the best players in the world and even if he’s not at his best he’ll be hard to beat” – Stuart Bingham.
The head-to-head favours Higgins but he looked ill at ease in both Coventry and York, venues where Bingham positively purred. The Christmas break has given Higgins a chance to regroup but Bingham goes into this one with every reason to believe his great run can continue.
BBC2: 1pm + 11.20pm (GMT)
BBC Red button: 7pm (GMT)
Eurosport International: 4pm + 8pm (CET)
British Eurosport2: 1.30pm + 7pm (GMT)
Photographs by Monique Limbos.