RICKY WALDEN must shrug off a shoulder injury to avenge last year’s record Masters drubbing at the hands of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The 32-year-old Walden has drawn the Rocket again at Alexandra Palace – 12 months after losing 6-0 in 58 minutes and conceding 556 unanswered points.
Defending champion O’Sullivan has been in red-hot form winning the Champion of Champions and the UK Championship – though Walden had a big win in Chengdu two months ago.
But as if the challenge wasn’t big enough Walden, who plays the last-16 match on Tuesday afternoon, has been receiving medical treatment for weeks on his cueing arm.
World No9 Walden said: “I have been having physio on my shoulder for the last couple of months trying to get it right, I have struggled since winning in Chengdu.
“It is a repetition injury from doing the same movement over the years, and it collapses on the odd shot. It has been painful, but hopefully it is building back now with some gym work too.
“Still, at least it’s a nice easy one to start with, no problems there! I didn’t even hear I had got Ronnie again when the draw was actually made, some friends told me.
“And I was actually quite pleased, I am not one who worries about who I get and it is a chance to actually get some table time this year.
“He was unbelievable against me last year, that is the best anyone has ever played against me so it will be nice to have another crack at him.
“Anyone watching will know that it isn’t really possible to play much better than he did. One break he swerved the cue ball from baulk to pot a red and made 134. It was awesome.
“But however good he is I know if I am at the table with a chance I can win frames and matches, so it is just getting that foothold.
“When you are 3-0 or 4-0 down all you are thinking about is getting a chance, but there just weren’t any last time.
“And I do think if I play to the best of my ability I can win the tournament. I am certainly not scared of playing the top four, and have proved that.
“But this is the Masters and even beyond Ronnie it is the best 16 players, any of whom you could lose to if you are not on your game.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos