THE DAFABET MASTERS quarter-finals get underway at Alexandra Palace on Thursday…
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN v MARCO FU (1pm)
O’Sullivan can break two of Stephen Hendry’s records in this match. They are currently tied on 775 all-time centuries but the Rocket will have won the most matches at the Masters if he beats Fu. He and Hendry have won 42 each.
The remarkable set of milestones that Hendry set have gradually been eroded and O’Sullivan looks good to target a few more in the coming years as the Scot enjoys his retirement from competitive snooker (don’t expect to see him in the World Championship qualifiers).
Fu, it is often rightly pointed out, has a good record against O’Sullivan but the Hong Kong cueman hasn’t beaten him for five years. O’Sullivan has won their last five meetings, including a 6-0 drubbing at the Champion of Champions in November in which Fu, to use the old saying, was lucky to get nil.
There’s no doubt though that Fu scored terrifically well during his 6-3 first round defeat of Stuart Bingham. Three centuries, including a maximum, was testament to that. His challenge now is to repeat that feat with the extra edge of pressure that facing O’Sullivan undoubtedly brings.
In a high quality match, which this has the potential to be, the odd mistake really can be crucial. It can be as straightforward as a bad break-off shot. These few unforced errors, plus possibly some good or bad luck, can make the difference but are difficult to predict.
What isn’t is that O’Sullivan will be bang up for it. Since his return from his sabbatical two years ago he has played in five of the ‘Big Three’ events and won three of them as well as finishing runner-up in one. He is the man for a big occasion and that is the worry for Fu.
NEIL ROBERTSON v ALI CARTER (7pm)
Robertson played superbly to beat Carter when they met in Coventry in the Champion of Champions two months ago, treating him with every respect by trying as hard as he would against anyone else.
The Carter story is a remarkable one but Robertson will once again, quite rightly, be concerned with his own performance. Early on in the first round against Robert Milkins he was not at his very best but, from 4-3 down, produced three very classy frames to clinch victory.
He looks so impressive when he steps it up like this. He’s won all of the sport’s major titles but the next thing to do is win them again. That was the Hendry/Davis mentality and Robertson shares with them a single-mindedness which has certainly helped him get to the top.
Carter will again receive great support and must have been delighted with a 6-1 win over Barry Hawkins, which included a break of 130. First he wanted to be back playing snooker, then to be playing good snooker and he did on Tuesday night.
But Carter knows he can't afford many mistakes against Robertson, who is not usually one to wilt in big matches.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.