The Masters snooker: Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty predict winner

January 8, 2023
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Phil Haigh ✍️  


Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson seen during the semi-
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson are fancied to do well at Alexandra Palace (Picture: Getty Images)

The Masters gets underway on Sunday afternoon and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Ronnie O’Sullivan is tipped to do very well.

The huge event at Alexandra Palace sees the top 16 players in the world battle it out for the Paul Hunter Trophy and the £250,000 top prize, or at least it is meant to be the world’s top 16.

With Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao suspended amid an investigation into match-fixing, the two Chinese stars have been replaced by Hossein Vafaei and Dave Gilbert respectively so it is not quite the top 16, but still a stellar line-up.

With eight world champions in the field it is possible to make a case for a string of players in north London, but it is the current world champ who is getting most attention from pundits this year.

O’Sullivan has won the Masters seven times in the past, more than any other player, and is expected to perform well again as he prepares to face Luca Brecel in round one.

Former world number three Neal Foulds told Eurosport: ‘I have to be predictable and say Ronnie, in the bottom half of the draw, will be very dangerous again. I’m going to play it safe and say Ronnie can win it for the eighth time.’

Jimmy White, who won the event in 1984, added: ‘I’m absolutely with Neal Foulds. When Ronnie lost 6-0 to Ding in the UK [Championship] I think he’d had enough snooker, after winning them tournaments [Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions], he will get his nut down and practice really hard. I expect him to be in tip top condition for the Masters so I’m going to go with O’Sullivan as well.’



The Masters first round schedule

Sunday 8 January
1pm: Neil Robertson vs Shaun Murphy
7pm: Mark Selby vs Hossein Vafaei

Monday 9 January
1pm: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Luca Brecel
7pm: John Higgins vs Jack Lisowski

Tuesday 10 January
1pm: Mark Allen vs Barry Hawkins
7pm: Mark Williams vs Dave Gilbert

Wednesday 11 January
1pm: Judd Trump vs Ryan Day
7pm: Kyren Wilson vs Stuart Bingham

Former world champions Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty went through the draw and came up with a likely final between O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson, which would be a mammoth occasion for the sport.

Hendry bucked the trend by tipping the Australian to defend the title he won a year ago by beating Barry Hawkins in the final.

‘I’m going to shade Robertson in this final, he loves playing Ronnie in finals,’ Hendry said on his Cue Tips YouTube channel. ‘Every year he wins at least one tournament, he’s not won anything this season yet, this could be the won.’

Doherty disagreed, saying: ‘If you’re going for Robertson I’ll oppose you, I’ll go for Ronnie, seven times champion. It’ll be close, I think, 10-8 or 10-9 to Ronnie.’



The Masters draw

Neil Robertson vs Shaun Murphy
Kyren Wilson vs Stuart Bingham
Mark Allen vs Barry Hawkins
Judd Trump vs Ryan Day
Mark Selby vs Hossein Vafaei
John Higgins vs Jack Lisowski
Mark Williams vs Dave Gilbert
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Luca Brecel

For more stories like this, check our sport page.

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