The World Snooker Tour heads to London on Sunday with one of the biggest events on the planet, as the sport’s elite 16 players descend on Alexandra Palace for the Cazoo Masters.
Each opening round tie could conceivably be a final and the upcoming week of action is very much the embodiment of a best against the best event.
We’ve spoken to a number of the key players for the official event programme. Here is a brief glimpse of what they have had to say to whet your appetite.
Defending champion Yan landed a sensational victory 12 months ago, beating John Higgins 10-8 in the final. However, despite being the current holder of the Paul Hunter Trophy, he heads to North London to face Mark Williams and make his Alexandra Palace debut.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, last year’s event was staged behind closed doors in Milton Keynes. Yan admits that competing in front of a 2,000 strong crowd will be a whole new ball game. However, he is excited to taste the unique Masters atmosphere.
“I’ll be nervous coming out into the arena, but I am looking forward to it. I know about the venue and I know it carries an even better atmosphere than the World Championship. It is huge, yet it only has one table in it. You get all the attention out there and everyone’s eyes are on you, that worries me a little bit,” said 21-year-old Yan.
“I wish I could have won last year in front of a crowd, as it is such a prestigious event. However, it could have been a very different story with a big audience and I might have lost. I will feel more pressure this time trying to get over the line in matches. When I was 9-8 up in last year’s final I felt so calm. The emotions only kicked in at the very last moment.”
Stuart Bingham was the last player to win the Masters at Alexandra Palace, when he edged out Ali Carter 10-8 in a thrilling 2020 final.
Bingham has had his winning moment from 2020 captured by artist John Donaldson, who has completed works for a number of high profile figures including Snoop Dogg, Frank Bruno, Jamie Carragher, Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Donaldson painted Bingham posing by the tableside with his family and the Paul Hunter Trophy after his victory over Carter in the final. Although he is keen to add more memories, Bingham admits that Donaldson’s painting will take pride of place in his snooker room.
Bingham explained: “I saw that he’d done some for a few other players like Ronnie and Judd. He did one of me after I made a century in the last frame at the Masters and I said I’d really like one with all of my family. He came down with it to show me and I’m over the moon with it. The likeness of the painting is unbelievable. He sends me clips all the way through of how it is progressing. He is incredibly talented and it is no wonder he has done work for a lot of high profile people.
“I’m putting it up in my snooker room. I’ve got a trophy cabinet in there now, I used to keep my silverware in the toilet but I’ve moved it all into the snooker room! I’m trying to make it into a bit of a shrine.”
Anthony McGill will be competing at the Masters for just the second time in his career next week.
The Scot faces a stern test against Australia’s world number four Neil Robertson. McGill faced compatriot John Higgins on his debut four years ago and put up a strong showing, before losing out 6-4.
McGill now shares a practice facility in Glasgow with Higgins and Stephen Maguire. The two-time ranking event winner believes that the tough sessions with his illustrious practice partners mean he has absolutely nothing to fear on the circuit.
McGill said: “It is brilliant for me. If you said to the ten-year-old Anthony this is what it is going to be like, I would have just said wow. It has been really good for me over the last three years. I know that the world is a big place, but if I can hold my own in that little room in Glasgow then I can hold my own in the world as a whole. I have two of the best on the planet there to play with. I am fortunate and I think they like it is as well.
“I just get beat all of the time but that is fine because I don’t care, I am learning and I am getting better. Every time I come to tournaments I feel in good nick because of who I play against. It also takes away the fear factor. I am playing Neil Robertson at the Masters, but he isn’t going to hit me with anything I don’t see every day in that unit.”
You can hear more from Yan, Bingham and McGill in the official programme. There will also be profiles and stats on all of the players, Steve Davis will tell us about his remarkable 1997 Masters victory 25 years on, there will be a Masters quiz and much more. Copies will be available at the Alexandra Palace foyer throughout the week, but if you can’t make it then you can order yours here.
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