The Masters Snooker Outright preview

The second Triple Crown event of the snooker season gets underway on Sunday as the top 16 players in the world descend on Alexandra Palace for the Masters.

Judd Trump is the defending champion and he will be joined at the event by a whole host of giants from the game, including UK Championship winner Ronnie O'Sullivan, who will be aiming to land a record-extending eighth Masters title.

Tip 1 – Ronnie O'Sullivan to win The Masters @ 4/1

O'Sullivan may have turned 48 last month but he is continuing to prove age is just a number as he ended his 2023 by lifting the UK Championship – his 22nd Triple Crown title.

‘The Rocket’ picks and chooses which events he plays in these days but, when he does participate, he largely produces the goods; from five tournament appearances this season he has recorded two wins and reached one semi-final and one quarter-final.

Those efforts have kept O'Sullivan at the top of the world rankings heading into 2024 and he will expect to enjoy another deep run at the Masters, a tournament he has not only won seven times but in which he has also reached a further six finals.

It may now be seven years since O'Sullivan last tasted Masters glory but that should not stop him, especially as he appears to be on the right side of the draw.

First up for him will be a clash with the man he beat in the UK Championship final, Ding Junhui, and if he wins that then he will face either the out-of-form Neil Robertson or Barry Hawkins in the last eight.

O'Sullivan's potential semi-final opponents should also hold no fear and, once in a final, it would take a brave person to bet against arguably the sport's greatest-ever player.

Tip 2 – [Mark Allen second quarter winner @ 9/4](|3357059813|10|replace

Another player who knows all about winning the Masters is Mark Allen, who tasted glory with a 10-7 victory over Kyren Wilson in the 2018 final.

Since then, the Northern Irishman has surprisingly failed to win a match at the Masters but, buoyed by his recent victory in the Shoot Out, he will be hoping to turn his fortunes around at Alexandra Palace this year.

The world number three's success in the Shoot Out was his second title of the season after lifting the Champion of Champions trophy in November with a dismantling of this season's in-form player Trump 10-3 in the final.

That underlined the quality that ‘the Pistol’ possesses and he will be facing John Higgins in his opening match at the Masters, a player he beat en route to his Champion of Champions success.

Get the better of Higgins again and Allen will face either Mark Selby, who only reached the quarter-finals at one of his final six events of 2023, or Robert Milkins, who has never won a match at the Masters.

Neither of those players should hold too much fear for Allen, who looks well-placed to return to form at Alexandra Palace by reaching the semi-finals and perhaps beyond.

Tip 3 – Jack Lisowski fourth quarter winner @ 3/1

The fourth quarter of the draw at this year's Masters pits together four players who are either out of form or not expected to go far at the event.

World champion Luca Brecel has perhaps unsurprisingly struggled to find his best form this season on the back of his Crucible heroics – he is yet to go beyond the third round of a ranking event.

‘The Belgian Bullet’ will face Jack Lisowski in his opening match at the Masters, a player that has also not been at his best this season albeit he does have pedigree in this event having made it to the semi-finals 12 months ago.

Lisowski may have suffered early exits at his last three tournaments, most recently at the Scottish Open before Christmas, but he did reach the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open in October and he has lost only three of his nine previous meetings with Brecel.

Should ‘Jack-Pot’ get the better of Brecel then he will face either Shaun Murphy or Zhang Anda as he bids for a place in the semi-finals for the second year in a row.

Murphy is a former Masters champion but has only made one semi-final appearance since lifting the trophy in 2015 and his form has tailed off significantly since winning the season-opening Championship League.

Zhang's form is better – he won the International Championship in November and knocked out Trump on his way through to the last 16 of the recent Scottish Open.

However, the 32-year-old will be making his Masters debut which should not be underestimated. With all that taken into account, Lisowski may be the shrewd choice to win the quarter.

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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