The most prestigious invitational event on the snooker calendar kicks off on Sunday as 16 of the world’s finest players battle it out at Alexandra Palace for the 2014 Masters.
It’s also a landmark for the tournament which sees its 40th running this year and Ronnie O’Sullivan is the pre-tournament pick with the bookies.
As is the case for almost every tournament he enters, O’Sullivan has been priced as favourite to take his fourth Masters title this week.
The world champion sat out the event last season during his 12-month sabbatical which saw him clinch the season’s curtain closer at the Crucible in May.
The Rocket’s last major outing was in the UK Championship where he was knocked out at the quarter-final stage against Stuart Bingham.
He also featured in the qualifying stages of the German Masters shortly before Christmas, in a match which showed the occasional eccentricity in his play. During his match against Thai player Thepchiya Un-Nooh, he took on a number of risky pots; some he emphatically potted but a number were way wide of the mark.
He’s sure to take this week’s tournament far more seriously and he’s currently priced at 11/4 with William Hill, amongst others.
Other Tournament Outrights
Neil Robertson secured the UK Championship back in December with an impressive performance against Mark Selby to complete the ‘triple crown’ of major events: the Worlds, the Masters and the UK.
He won the Masters back in 2012 and is my BET OF THE DAY to take it for a second time on Sunday, with Bet 365 offering the best price of 11/2.
Selby is the defending champion having defeated Robertson 10-6 in the final last year as he scooped the Masters title for a third time.
Apart from his appearance in the final of the UK in York, the Jester from Leicester has had a quiet season by his standards, and is currently priced at 13/2 with Ladbrokes as tournament winner.
The player of the season so far has undoubtably been China’s Ding Junhui who recorded three consecutive ranking tournament wins earlier on in the season.
Ding won this tournament back in 2011 and is currently available at 15/2 with Paddy Power to repeat that feat again.
One other player I can see as an outside bet for the title is Judd Trump. The world number four has had a very disappointing season so far but looked very sharp in last week’s Championship League events held at Crondon Park in Essex.
He’s currently available at 10/1 with a number of bookies including Betfred.
Selected First Round Matches
The tournament kicks off at 1pm on Sunday afternoon with defending champ Selby taking on Mark Davis.
Selby has an impeccable record against world number 14 Davis, having not lost to him in any ranking event meeting. He’s 2/7 favourite with Boylesports whilst Sportingbet offer odds of 3/1 on a Davis win.
O’Sullivan begins his pursuit of the title on Tuesday evening against world number 13 Robert Milkins who is making his debut at the Masters.
The match is a repeat of their meeting in the UK Championship less than two months ago where Ronnie romped to a 6-0 win and he’s considerable favourite for this one with Paddy Power providing the best odds of 1/7. Coral offer the best value on a Milkins win at 6/1.
Live coverage from the tournament is available on BBC Two and the red button as well as on Eurosport.
For free bets with Sportingbet, click HERE.