Hossein Vafaei hopes to complete Mark Selby hat-trick on surprise Masters debut

January 8, 2023
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Five
Hossein Vafaei makes his Masters debut on Sunday evening (Picture: Getty Images)

Hossein Vafaei is making an unexpected first appearance at the Masters on Sunday evening and he sees it as the perfect place to make it three wins in a row over Mark Selby.

The Iranian has taken Zhao Xintong’s place in the draw after the Chinese star became one of 10 players suspended from World Snooker Tour events amid an investigation into match-fixing.

Vafaei was only told he was playing at Alexandra Palace three days before arriving at the north London venue, and although he was delighted to get the call, he would rather it wasn’t in these circumstances.

‘I was shocked. I was over the moon. I checked the news, I saw it was confirmed, I was so happy,’ Vafaei told WST.

‘But what’s happened to our sport I wasn’t happy for that, I was surprised actually, a little bit.’

The 28-year-old takes on Selby in the first round having won his last two matches against the four-time world champion, coming at the 2020 and ’21 UK Championships.

The Prince of Persia knows how to get the better of the Jester from Leicester, but is also well aware of how difficult it is to do just that.

‘Mark Selby any day in any tournament, if you beat him, well done to you, because Mark Selby it so tough to beat,’ he said.

‘He’s one of the top fighters in our sport, it’s very tough to beat Mark Selby in any tournament. Hopefully Alexandra Palace is going to be a great place for me to do the hat-trick and win a third match in a row against Mark Selby.’

Zhao and Yan Bingtao have both missed out on the Masters this year due to suspensions, with Dave Gilbert taking Yan’s place in the draw to face Mark Williams.

While Vafaei has benefited from the situation he still sees it as a great achievement to make it to the Masters and promises to be back next year as a member of the top 16.

‘It’s such a big achievement for me to compete in the Masters. Historic venue, lots of history behind this venue,’ he said. ‘It’s every player’s dream to come and play at Alexandra Palace. It’s great for me to come and play in the Masters.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Zhao Xintong is suspended until the match-fixing investigation is concluded (Picture: Getty Images)

‘It’s a little bit fortunate because of the suspension for Zhao Xintong, but it’s ok, I was next in line to compete.

‘I had a chance to come in directly, I promise next time I’ll be in directly.

‘The Masters is one of those tournaments you really want to play. Every young snooker player, this is one of their dreams.

‘It means you’ve done it, you’ve become a top player. But you need to show a good performance as well, that puts a lot of pressure on, and that’s why the Masters is one of the most exciting tournaments for the fans. I’m so excited to be here.

‘I’ll love it. I’ll try to enjoy it and I’ll try my best to play well and make my people and snooker lovers happy. And myself happy as well, as soon as I’m happy I’m dangerous in every tournament.’

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