John Higgins looks a fair price to claim a third Masters title at Alexandra Palace
Ronnie O’Sullivan is the star attraction next week, with The Rocket back on the baize to compete in a prestigious snooker tournament only available to the top sixteen in the world.
O’Sullivan is among the favourites to win and bet365 offer 4/1 about the number six seed, with Mark Williams his first round / last sixteen opponent.
Ronnie is clearly hot property when he’s on form, although it’s hard to back him with confidence considering that his motivation levels have to be questioned, while Stuart Carrington recently beat him in a German Masters qualifier recently.
Neil Robertson recently won the UK Championship in York and could go close at Ally Pally, although the Australian is plenty short enough.
Ultimately, we’re taking about a tournament featuring a host of world-class players and we’re prepared to take a chance on John Higgins for this one.
The Scot has a tough opener in Liang Wenbo although it should be noted that Higgins made the last eight in York before losing 6-5 to eventual winner Robertson.
Ahead of the UK Championship, Stephen Hendry had told the BBC: “The form man is John Higgins – I have been very impressed with him. It might be too powerful a statement to say he has turned his career around, but at times I am sure he would have thought he would not be winning tournaments again.
“He looked low in confidence and like his career was winding down but his return has been pretty remarkable.
“A couple of years back he was quite open in talking about his struggles and I don’t know if he is just working harder, but that is what I would hazard a guess at.
“Maybe his focus returned when he was struggling, but you can see how good a player he is. No-one is dominating the sport at the moment and he is definitely still one of the best around.”
It suggests that Higgins is in good nick and his experience could help him beat Wenbo before facing either Stuart Bingham or Ding in the last eight.
Judd Trump was a Wenbo casualty in the UK Championship and Paddy Power make him the 13/2 third favourite for this tournament, although he’s never reached the final and is avoided in favour of a player in better form.
Masters first round draw
Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen
Barry Hawkins v Joe Perry
Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire
Neil Robertson v Marco Fu
Mark Selby v Ricky Walden
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Williams
John Higgins v Liang Wenbo
Stuart Bingham v Ding Junhui
John Higgins to win @ 12/1 with Ladbrokes