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Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Murphy's triumph.

Shaun Murphy is the 2015 dafabet Masters champion after a comprehensive 10-2 victory over Neil Robertson in today's final at the Alexandra Palace.

This victory completed a career triple crown for the Murphy following on from his wins in the World Championship (2005) & UK Championship (2008),but more than that it shows just what a remarkable turnaround we've seen over the last twelve months  from a player who threatened retirement following his semi final defeat in this tournament last year.

What we saw here this week was a man playing with the confidence that collecting four titles since that faithful day brings,as his natural free flowing game rose to every challenge that faced him along the way.

For all that though it was Robertson who started this final as favourite,following his stand out performances in beating Carter & O'Sullivan.

It was then perhaps a shock to see him struggling so much early on as Murphy powered away to a 4-0 lead with runs of 64,127 & 76..that became 5-0 in the next and although Robertson did manage to take two of the last three of the session to give himself a slight chance going into the night session at 6-2 behind.

Into the night session then and any chance we were going to see one of the great comebacks when Murphy somehow managed to win an opening frame he always looked second best in to make it 7-2.This was the final nail in the coffin for Robertson's chances as Murphy pulled away to win the three more frames he needed to claim the title.

For Robertson he will be bitterly disappointed that he couldn't finish the job following his dominant display in seeing off Ronnie yesterday,but this was a case of "after the Lord Mayors show" for the Aussie world no.1.Still in the form he did show in those earlier matches he will be a force to be reckoned with over the rest of the season.

That said though,noone will enter this busy period of the season feeling better about things than our champion Shaun Murphy. When you see him play well,he looks so natural around the table,that you just wonder why he hasn't won more titles in his career.Perhaps the reason for this has been a tendency to over complicate things and this new stripped back approach is the secret to his success

He will be hoping that this can prove the catalyst to more of the big tournament successes he has always felt he should be having,He certainly possesses all the talent required.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Semi Final Round Up

The final of the 2015 dafabet Masters tomorrow will be a rematch of the 2012 title decider as Neil Robertson takes on Shaun Murphy for the top prize of £200,000

Robertson will no doubt start that match as a warm favourite to collect his second masters title after his  6-1 demolition of Ronnie O'Sullivan in the first of today's semi finals.

In what was one of the seasons most eagerly anticipated clashes,the question was could Robertson reproduce the high standard he had displayed against Carter in the previous round,Well we got the answer to that in the very first frame as his knocked in a century to lead 1-0.

It was over to Ronnie now to see if he could reply and he was well on course to do so until,on a break of 63,he played a needless cannon into the pack on frame ball black,missed it & Robertson dished with 66 to nick it and go 2-0.

In hindsight this was probably the deciding moment in this match as Robertson hammered home his advantage to take the next to lead it 3-0.

Ronnie did manage to get on the scoreboard in the next with a 101 of his own,but any thoughts of a comeback quickly disappeared when he missed a mid range red in the first after the interval  & Robertson dished again to go 4-1. The last two frames of the match were a little scrappier with Neil missing an odd one,but as is so often the case when things are not going your way,none of these mistakes were giving Ronnie anything that would allow him to get any rhythm going.

The end came in frame seven courtesy of a 60 break from Robertson to give him a famous victory.

For Ronnie then he will have to wait at least another year to equal Hendry's total of six masters titles,but for Robertson his thoughts can now turn to the best of 19 final and a clash with Shaun Murphy

Just as last night it was his opponent who got off to the better start taking the opening two frames to lead 2-0,indeed Allen was well in again in the next,but a kick on the blue allowed Murphy his first real chance and he took it to clinch his first frame,before also taking the next to go to the interval at 2-2.

When they returned Murphy upped a gear again taking command of the match to take the next three with breaks of 83,76 &102 and the end was not far away as Murphy did what he needed in the next to secure a 6-2 win.

As I said above Robertson will start a short price to claim his second Masters crown,but he will have to be at his very best to beat a Shaun Murphy who is high on confidence this season and added to that the carrot of joining the exclusive club who have won all three of the sports "Majors",I just have a feeling it may be Shaun's year,Anyway,all will be revealed tomorrow in what promises to be another classic.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Day Six

The second semi final at the dafabet Masters tomorrow will see Mark Allen take on Shaun Murphy after both came trough quite contrasting quarter finals here today.

We often see in this sport where one player playing well can inspire his opponent and we end up with a classic,but on the reverse side the opposite can also be the case,with one player struggling and bringing down the standard of the other,That appeared to be the case this afternoon as Mark Allen & Joe Perry both struggled to get anywhere near the levels they reached in their first round victories.

In a match that both payers will want to forget it was Allen who took the early initiative going to the interval leading 3-1.On the resumption Perry dug deep to level the match at 3-3 & then at 4-4,but it was Allen who managed to grind out the necessary frames to go through 6-4.

One thing for sure is that he will need to play a lot better if he is to trouble the in form Shaun Murphy tomorrow.

Murphy reached this stage with a fine comeback against a determined Stephen Maguire. Just the type of match we were in for was obvious here from the start as Maguire flew into a 2-0 lead,taking the first of those with a marvelous 137 clearance.

Back came Murphy though with a 103 of his own before also taking the fourth frame to level it up at 2-2.Maguire edged ahead again,taking frame five,but Murphy drew level again 3-3.

Murphy took the lead for the first time in the match when he nicked the next on the black,,but Maguire came firing back with a 75 to make it 4-4.

What we have here this week though is a Shaun Murphy full of belief and confidence.His second 103 break of the match moved him within one of victory at 5-4 and there was to be no decider here as he sealed victory in the next to win 6-4.

A fascinating weekend we have in store then. Ronnie O'Sullivan is still the obvious favourite,but if Neil Robertson can reproduce the form he showed against Ali Carter he will give the Rocket plenty to think about,Then looking at the second semi final,going  purely on what we saw today Shaun Murphy will start his match with Mark Allen as a warm favourite,but as we know with this game 24 hours can change everything.

What we do know is that whoever does come through these two semi finals we are in for one hell of a weekend of snooker.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Day 5

Today at  dafabet Masters we the ad first couple of quarter final tussles and although few would be surprised with the serene progress of Ronnie O'Sullivan,there is no doubt that in the form he is in that Neil Robertson is a very real contender for his title.

Ronnie O'Sullivan was the first player. through to the semi finals with a straight forward 6-1 victory over Marco Fu.

Following his equaling of Hendry's century record in his first round match here on Tuesday it was a matter of when he was going to beat it and thankfully for Ronnie that came in the very opening frame of this one,as a run of 101 gave him his 776 career century.

With that out of the way he was free to concentrate on the match ,but it was Fu who took the second to level at 1-1.A 67 gave Ronnie the lead again at 2-1 and it looked as though Fu would again draw level in the next,but a superb colours clearance gave Ronnie a 3-1 and from here he never looked back as with the aid of breaks of 85 & 66 he ran out a comfortable 6-1 winner.

So two straight forward wins for Ronnie so far in his quest for a sixth Masters title,but if tonights evidence is anything to go by,he wont have it quite as easy against his semi final opponent Neil Robertson.

The Aussie world no.1 was in sparkling form tonight as he beat Ali Carter 6-1 in as commanding a performance as he has ever produced.

Robertson had struggled early on in his first round match the other night against Robert Milkins ,but  found his form when he needed it most to win the last three frames and carried that form into tonights match staring with a 128 break.He also controlled the next to take a 2-0 lead before Carter eventually got off the mark,taking a long & fascinating frame three on the black.

That  though was to be it for Carter as further contributions of 98,127 & 84 gave Robertson the win and a staggering match pot success rate of  97%.

What a Saturday afternoon we have on store then as these two giants of the game face each other,but before that we have another two quarter finals to get through tomorrow as the afternoon sees Mark Allen take on Joe Perry & then in the evening Stephen Maguire faces Shaun Murphy

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Day Four.

First up this afternoon Mark Allen eventually saw off  John Higgins 6-4,but had to be near his best to do so as both players at times produced their best snooker.

Higgins has suffered from a severe lack of confidence of late,but was quickly out of the blocks here,producing his very best stuff,to take the opening two frames with runs of  104 & 132.

Into frame three and it was Allens turn to trouble the scorer with a fine century of his own,this time a 121,to make it 2-1 and when Higgins failed to kill frame four off,despite a 59 break Allen leveled it at 2-2 going to the interval.

Allen also took frame five,but we were to be level again as a 96 from Higgins made it 3-3.This was snooker of the highest quality and an 88 from Allen edged him ahead again 4-3. That really should have become 4-4 in the eighth ,but in what was to be the key moment in the match Allen got the snooker he required on the last red and cleared to go 5-3 ahead.

There was still time for a 147 attempt from Higgins in frame nine that ended on 120 when he missed the yellow,but there to be no deciding frame shoot out as Allen took the next to seal a 6-4 win.

So what a match it was and hopefully,even in defeat,Higgins can still take the positives from a excellent display as he looks to secure his place in the top 16 for the Crucible over the next couple of months.

As for Allen I've always felt that if he is to win one of our "Majors" that it would be the Masters. Why can't it be this year?

In the last of the first round round matches Ding Junhui's miserable season continued as he crashed out 6-3 to Joe Perry.

Ding has looked a long way short of the player who claimed five ranking titles last season so far this term and got off to a poor stat here as Perry took an early 3-1 lead.

After the interval Ding started to show signs of coming to life,as he quickly closed the gap to 3-2. Quitehow he managed to lose the next frame though will no doubt haunt him as he tries to get to sleep tonight,but from a position of being 34 ahead with 25 on the table he not only conspired to hit the black in a failed escape from a snooker,but also left a free ball which Perry took before clearing the table to make it 4-2.

Ding did manage to steal the next on the black,but couldn't get a proper run going and Perry went on to seal the match and book his place in the Masters quarter finals for the first time at the seventh time of asking.

Tomorrow see's the start of those quarter finals with first up in the afternoon Ronnie O'Sullivan v Marco Fu and in the evening  Ali Carter v Neil Robertson.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Day Three

Day three at the 2015 dafabet Masters and enter into the tournament Ronnie O'Sullivan.

He may not currently be the world number no.1 but few would dare claim that O'Sullivan is not the best player in the world and such has been his form of late that,even with the top 16 in action here,he still started the week as a short price favourite for the title

That price only hardened following the early exits of Selby & Trump,so all eyes were on his match this afternoon with Ricky Walden to see if he could reproduce the flawless snooker he displayed in his 6-0 demolition of the same opponent here last yr.

Well the answer early on was that he couldn't but despite gifting his opponent several changes,Ronnie still went to the interval leading 3-1. On the resumption of play he visibly stepped up a gear with runs of 91 & 100 to extend that lead to 5-1.

Walden now had nothing to lose and a 100 break of his own made it 5-2. That break though looked merely a consolation as Ronnie left him needing two snookers in the next.Walden however got one snooker and from the resulting free ball cleared to make it 5-3.

Ronnie was now feeling the pressure as surely thoughts of Trumps comeback in the UK final came to mind.Those thoughts would  only have gained more ground in the next as O'Sullivan missed two good chances to close out the match and Walden capitalized to close within one at 5-4.

That was to be it though as Ronnie regained his composure and with the help of a fluke on the yellow close out the match with a century,to win 6-4.

That century was the 775th of Ronnies career & was significant as it drew him level with the record held by Stephen Hendry.With the amount of snooker been played now when he finally breaks it.probably in his next match here on Thursday,it will be the last great century milestone we will see,unless he reaches the 1000 mark in a few years time & who at this stage would be brave enough to say that he wont.

Into the evening session and a well deserved rapturous reception for Ali Carter as he came out to play  Barry Hawkins.

Carters health issues have been well documented in recent times and the courage he has shown in battling these illnesses has gained him much admiration from both inside & outside the snooker world.

Hopefully now he can put all that behind him and get back to what he does best on the snooker table. He certainly got off to the right start here,clinching the first with a 95 break before also taking the second with a 50 to lead 2-0.

Hawkins did get off the mark,taking the next,but this was to be Carters night as he won the next four frames on the trot,highlighted with a magnificent 130 to  seal a 6-1 win.He will next face neil Robertson in the Quarter finals.

Tomorrow sees the last of the first round matches with a real cracker in afternoon as Mark Allen faces John Higgins and wrapping up in the evening when Ding Junhui faces Joe Perry.

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Day Two.

Day two at The dafabet Masters and although it didn't quite produce the drama of yesterday it was still a fascinating day in tis own right.

First up we had Judd Trump taking on Stephen Maguire.After a difficult couple of seasons Trump has of late been showing signs of a return to the form that catapulted him into the limelight in 2011 and it was he who got off to the perfect start in this one taking the opening two frames to lead 2-0

That really should have become 3-0,but in a frame that ultimately proved to be turning point in the match Maguire got the snooker he required on the blue to nick it and make it 2-1. He,then made the most of this reprieve  to take the next with a 96 to go to the interval level at 2-2.

When they resumed it was the Scot who once again found his touch to take  the next two to go 4-2.Trump must have been wondering how it had come to this,but to his credit he produced runs of 109 & 71 make it 4-4.

It was now basically down to a best of three and in a tense ninth both players missed glorious chances to edge ahead before Maguire got the better of the tactical battle to lead again 5-4.Into the next and when Trump missed a black off the spot and,in the process split the reds wide open,Maguire pounced with a 64 break to clinch a 6-4 win.

A rare Masters victory then for Maguie who has a poor record in this tournament and a real missed opportunity for Trump who will feel this is one that got away.

With the exit of Selby yesterday & Trump this afternoon,attention tonight focused on Neil Robertson to see if he could stake a claim as a title contender here this week.

Here he faced Robert Milkins and although the Aussie did eventually get over the line,he will need to improve vastly if he is to add another Master crown to his cv.

This was a match that took its time to get going as a scrappy opening four frames were shared 2-2.
Things did pick up a bit after the interval as a 69 from Milkins to go 3-2 was quickly answered by a 77 from Robertson to level it again at 3-3.

The seventh frame was another long scrappy affair,but when Milkins took it with a great clearance from the brown,you wondered what it meant for the match.

Well it turned out that it was the kick the Robertson needed as he produced his best form of the match,just when it was needed most.knocking in breaks of 95,117 & 76 to run out a 6-4 winner.

Robertson will no doubt be happy with how he finished off this one and although he can play better that late rally has given him the opportunity to improve in the next round.



Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Masters 2015 Day One

Well with one match going to a deciding frame and the other featuring a 147,I think its fair to say that the Masters has had worse first days in it 40 year history.

In the days opening match Shaun Murphy eventually got the better of  Mark Selby  but only after surviving a trademark comeback from the world champion.

Selby has struggled for form so far this season,but he has always produced his best form in this tournament and it looked as though that was the case here again,as he took the opening frame with a break of 100.

The next two frames were the sort of scrappy affairs that normally go the way of Selby,but here they both went to Murphy and when he knocked in a superb long red on his way to a 92 break,He would take a 3-1 lead to the interval.

Selby was really struggling now and things didn't get any better as Murphy seemed to grow stronger,knocking in breaks of 55 & 56 to move within one of victory at 5-1.

One thing we do know about Selby though is that no matter how he is playing he will never give up without a fight and he won the seventh frame to close to 5-2. That became 5-3 in the next as Seby knocked in his second century of the day,this time a 120.Murphy was first in in the next,but an unexpected missed black off the spot allowed Selby to close within one at 5-4.

Things had certainly changed now as the grin on Selby's face replaced the worry that had been there not long before and he had even more to smile about as he took the next to level at 5-5.

Into the decider then and considering all that had gone before it is to his immense credit that Murphy seemed to find his cuing arm just when he needed it. A series of superb single pots chipped away at the balls left on the table as he eventually got over the line to seal a dramatic 6-5 win.

The evening match between Marco Fu & Stuart Bingham had quite an act to follow then and after a slow start it eventually exploded in the fourth,when Marco Fu became only the third man in history,after Kirk Stevens & Ding Junhui, to get a maximum 147 in The Masters.

This break was Fu at his brilliant cueball controlling best and put him 3-1 up going to the interval.Another century in the next saw that become 4-1 and although Bingham started to find some form of his own to close to 4-3,a third century of the match from Fu moved him to the brink at 5-3.

He sealed his victory in the next on a night he'll never forget to move through to the Quarter finals with a 6-3 win.

A dramtic start to this years tournament then and the big clashes continue tomorrow afternoon with Judd Trump taking on Stephen Maguire  & in the evening Neil Robertson facing Robert Milkins

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Masters 2015 preview

One week after the PDC World Darts championship was played out to a thrilling conclusion there,the Alexandra Palace in London has been transformed into top class Snooker venue for the 2015 dafabet Masters which gets under way tomorrow afternoon.

This tournament was won in scintillating fashion last year by Ronnie O'Sullivan and judging by what we've seen from the great man this season with his victories in the Champion of Champions & the UK Championship, he will once again take all the beating here.

Such is his superiority it is probably not even a case of who can stop him at his best,but rather how much bellow his peak must he perform to be vulnerable to the would be challengers?

Suppose the first place to look for an alternative to another Ronnie win is with the man who pushed him so hard in those two big finals Judd Trump. After a couple of difficult seasons Judd seems to have put his career back on its upward trajectory and will come here full of confidence.

Other players coming here in form include the likes of Stephen Maguire & Shaun Murphy and they will be hoping to continue where they left off in 2014 in this busy second half of the season.

By contrast Neil Robertson,Ding Junhui & world champion Mark Selby will be hoping this week can prove a springboard to greater things after an indifferent first half of the season for them all.

Throw in  John Higgins,Mark Allen,Marco FU as well as few other and we are truly in for a fascinating week.

As you will have guessed above I don't see anything other than Ronnie collecting a sixth Masters title next weekend,but when you have the worlds to 16 players gather together anything can happen.

The actin gets under way tomorrow afternoon & what a match to start with as Shaun Murphy takes on Mark Selby.Let battle commence.