A look ahead to day 3 at the Dafabet Masters as Ding Junhui plays Shaun Murphy and Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Robert Milkins…
DING JUNHUI V SHAUN MURPHY
26 Age 31
3 Ranking 8
39 Centuries this season 16
10 Masters appearances (inc. 2014) 10
Winner 2011 Best Masters performance Runner-up 2012
THE CASE FOR DING
The 2011 Masters champion has had a superb season, winning three successive ranking titles. He seemed understandably tired at the UK Championship but will have had a good Christmas break and there’s no reason to believe he can’t produce more top quality snooker in the remainder of the season.
THE CASE FOR MURPHY
Murphy has lost three stone in a conscious effort to be more healthy and though his results have been disappointing of late, they have hardly been disastrous. A student of the game’s history, Murphy knows how important the Masters is and his Championship League 147 last week seemed to herald an immediate return of confidence.
“I know the bookmakers are making me a bigger price these days for titles but I have no interest in what they say. It has no bearing on my chances or my life. They were wrong about me in 2005, and in the Premier League final against Ronnie O’Sullivan” – Murphy.
Has the potential to be a classic and is the sort of match which could easily have been the final had the draw worked out differently. Ding is justifiably favourite considering his season, which included his 5-4 win over Murphy in Shanghai in which his excellent safety game tempered the Englishman’s attacking approach. Could be very close.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN v ROBERT MILKINS
38 Age 37
24 World ranking 13
28 Centuries this season 8
20 Masters appearances (inc 2014) 1
Winner 4 times Best Masters performance Debut
THE CASE FOR O’SULLIVAN
The small matter of four Masters titles from nine finals as well as being a five times world champion who relishes the big stage make O’Sullivan a big favourite. The fact he missed out last year may also act as extra motivation.
THE CASE FOR MILKINS
The Gloucester man has really got his act together in recent seasons and it will be a proud moment when he steps out to play in the Masters for the first time. The key for him will be in settling early because he is certainly capable of fluency and his confidence is high at the moment.
“I am really looking forward to it, it has been a target all season and thinking about it was probably starting to affect some of my performances. It’s a massive thing for me as I have never been there, but it was in the minds of even established players who had been there many times” – Milkins.
The frames aggregate in their three previous meetings is 24-3 to O’Sullivan, which makes grim reading for Milkins, particularly coming off the back of his 6-0 drubbing to the Rocket at the UK Championship in York last month. O'Sullivan, like anyone else, is beatable but has to be favourite to progress.
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Photographs by Monique Limbos.