Cazoo Masters – Mystic McManus

With the Cazoo Masters kicking off on Sunday, we’ve consulted Eurosport pundit and 1994 Masters champion Alan McManus to look ahead to the opening round encounters.

Here’s Alan’s predictions and thoughts on how the matches could pan out…

Sunday 9th January

1pm – Yan Bingtao vs Mark Williams

Alan’s Prediction – Mark Williams win

“This is a very interesting match. I still don’t know quite where Yan stands at the top level of the game. He is obviously improving in a lot of departments, but I still see this match as one where Mark is a good favourite. Yan will always be sharp, like all of the young players these days he is constantly practising. However, Mark loves this kind of event and will be ready for it. He will thrive in the atmosphere and the environment. The crowd means nothing for him in terms of his performance. There might be a bit of pressure on Yan as defending champion. I’d hazard a guess for Mark being a little bit too strong and his class may well tell in the end.”

7pm – Neil Robertson vs Anthony McGill

Alan’s Prediction – Neil Robertson win

“This is very difficult to predict. Looking at the way both guys play, I actually think this is a really good match for Anthony. I think he enjoys playing these guys. I know he faced John Higgins on his debut in 2018 and put in a really strong performance, before eventually getting beat. I don’t see this being an easy victory for Neil, but he is one of those that enjoys the crowd and the occasion at the Masters. Logic will tell you that you need to pick Neil to come through. However, I see this match being a close one. I rate Anthony very highly and I know Neil does too. This should be a great game.”

 

Monday 10th January

1pm – John Higgins vs Zhao Xintong

Alan’s Prediction – Zhao Xintong win

“I’ve not seen John over Christmas and New Year. I don’t know how much he has been on the table. I’d imagine he’ll have had a little bit of a break from it, as he has had a pretty strenuous first half of the season. I think this has the potential for a surprise result. Zhao has been playing at the Championship League and he did really well to come through his group. I think he will be very well prepped for it. In many ways this is the match of the round. There are so many questions on both sides of this game. How will the youngster handle the big stage? Will John continue his great form? I cannot wait to find out.”

7pm – Shaun Murphy vs Barry Hawkins

Alan’s Prediction – Shaun Murphy win

“In the modern world most of us have short memories. Despite his form not being the best before Christmas, we must make sure we remember Shaun’s performance in getting to the final at the Crucible last year. He just loves that big stage and always has. Barry just plays the same way all of the time, it is constant high quality snooker. A lot of this is down to Shaun, if he plays near his best game then I think he will be favourite. I don’t think his lack of results this season will last all that long as the simple fact of the matter is that he is that good. Whether it comes next week, I don’t know. I’d just shade Shaun for this.”

 

Tuesday 11th January

1pm – Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Jack Lisowski

Alan’s Prediction: Ronnie O’Sullivan win

“This will be a cracker. What I want to see in this game is the continuation of Jack’s improvement. I want to see him really compete and push Ronnie around a little bit in certain stages of the match. He is very capable of doing that, but it is very difficult to go against Ronnie at the Masters. Ronnie will have the crowd on his side and the occasion could get to Jack. His development has been so good that I know he can do it. However, I think Ronnie is a warm favourite, partly because of his history in the event having won it seven times and partly because of his form from winning the World Grand Prix before Christmas.”

7pm – Mark Selby vs Stephen Maguire

Alan’s Prediction: Stephen Maguire win

“A little bit like Anthony McGill against Neil Robertson, it feels to me as if Stephen’s game matches up quite well against Mark Selby. I think he fancies the job against him and believes if he plays well then he can dominate the game. Stephen is usually good for a few big performances in a season. With Mark you know that he will make life difficult, be keeping Stephen tight and expecting to get a few freebie chances. I would, on a coin flip, just edge Stephen on this one but he will have to be at the very top of his game to beat Mark.

 

Wednesday 12th January

1pm – Judd Trump vs Mark Allen

Alan’s Prediction: Judd Trump win

“Judd has the Champion of Champions under his belt this season. It is nice to have a trophy tucked away and Mark has that as well having won his home event at the Northern Ireland Open. It feels like this will be the best standard of the round. I can see five or six centuries. I just have to side with Judd, but Mark could also win the match 6-1 himself. This will be breaks galore and an absolute slug fest. It is a very tough one to call.”

7pm – Kyren Wilson vs Stuart Bingham

Alan’s Prediction: Kyren Wilson win

“Stuart seems to be in good form of late after a good showing at the World Grand Prix. Mentally he will feel he is defending the title after winning at Alexandra Palace in 2020 and last year’s event being behind closed doors. I think it is another tough call. Kyren is so consistent at the moment. He is showing his best snooker in the biggest tournaments now, that is where he sets his stall out and that is where he wants to be performing. Stuart will be very sharp, but I just give Kyren the edge in this one.”

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