A look forward to Monday’s matches at the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London…
JUDD TRUMP v STEPHEN MAGUIRE (1pm)
Trump has cued with great confidence all season, his decision to travel to the Australian Open last June vindicated when he won it and returned to blighty with a trophy and full of confidence.
Trump has already compiled 51 centuries this season – one more than he made during the whole of the 2013/14 campaign. So he starts 2015 in a positive frame of mind and has already had four tough days warm-up at the Championship League.
Maguire was relegated after two, although both he and Trump had won two matches apiece. The Scot lost a thriller to Trump, 6-4 in the semi-finals of the UK Championship last month and their head-to-head favours Maguire 5-4.
Maguire has won his fair share of titles but has also come close many times in leading events without quite getting his hands on trophies. He has lost in all three of his Masters semi-finals.
Although the Masters will always provide tough matches, Trump has landed in a particularly hard section. If he does beat Maguire he will face Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals.
But the Bristolian seems bang up for the challenge this season and knows that these are the tournaments which stand out on a player’s C.V. He came so close to winning a second UK Championship title last season. He’s never been in a Masters final but this year represents his best chance yet.
NEIL ROBERTSON v ROBERT MILKINS (7pm)
Milkins had a wisdom tooth taken out last Friday, an experience still marginally more enjoyable than his Masters debut 12 months ago, in which he was beaten 6-1 by Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Playing in the Masters, with its big London crowd, can be intimidating enough but the added factor of facing O’Sullivan created an obvious edge of nervousness and Milkins never settled.
The draw has again been unkind to Milkins as this year he faces another former champion, world no.1 Robertson, a man for the big occasion.
Robertson is looking to relaunch his season. Since victory in Wuxi Classic and a runners-up spot in the Australian Open, he has not pulled up too many trees, particularly in the big ranking events. The Masters, though, is just the sort of tournament to get the juices flowing again.
But he will well remember Milkins beating him in the first round of the 2013 World Championship, a match which went against type in that Milkins, such an instinctive, attacking player, relied on some excellent tactical play. Robertson has won their three meetings since.
He needs to take control early on to continue his winning run, who himself surely needs to settle early if he is to threaten an upset.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.