Our preview of the final day of first round matches in the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London…
NEIL ROBERTSON v MARK ALLEN
31 Age 27
1 Ranking 10
65 Centuries this season 20
9 Masters appearances (inc. 2014) 6
Winner 2012 Best Masters performance Semi-finals 2011
THE CASE FOR ROBERTSON
What more needs to be said about the Australian? He’s world no.1, he’s just won the UK Championship and he’s made a record 65 centuries already this season. A model of consistency, Robertson is harder than ever to beat.
THE CASE FOR ALLEN
A big occasion player, the Northern Irishman could count himself unlucky to lose 6-5 to Robertson last year, having laid a snooker with what proved to be his last shot before Robertson potted a red off the baulk cushion and made a century. Allen is unafraid of reputations and more than capable of heavy scoring himself.
“I lost a few finals last year but I won a few too, and the Crucible was the only real blip. It was the only result I had last year that I thought was really unacceptable. But it may have spurred me on to have such a good season this time” – Robertson.
Robertson is many people’s pick for the title but it would not be a huge shock if Allen beat him. They have played each other in each of the last three Masters, with the Aussie holding a 2-1 advantage. He may be the world no.1 but this is about as tough a first round draw as he could have been handed.
BARRY HAWKINS v RICKY WALDEN
34 Age 31
6 Ranking 11
12 Centuries this season 15
4 Masters appearances (inc.2014) 3
Last 16 twice Best Masters performance Last 16 twice
THE CASE FOR HAWKINS
The World Championship runner-up and a quarter-finalist at the UK Championship in December, Hawkins has come good in the major events in recent times. Completely transformed in the last couple of years, the Kent cueman is increasingly becoming a player to avoid.
THE CASE FOR WALDEN
Like Hawkins, Walden has done well in the majors in the last year, reaching the semi-finals of the World and UK Championships. His confidence was undoubtedly boosted ahead of the Masters by winning group 1 of the Championship League last week.
“I’m just looking to get into a tournament and produce my best, which I haven’t seemed to have done. I’m getting better at scrapping out games and winning ugly but I’m not producing the standard I would like in major tournaments” – Walden.
Another tough one to call but Hawkins had the edge in their Crucible semi-final last season and this will surely be on both of their minds.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.