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Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Masters Final King Ronnie the Sixth

Ronnie O'Sullivan is the 2016 dafabet Masters champion,taking the title with a straight forward 10-1 victory over Barry Hawkins.

This title will have all the more significance for Ronnie,because it draws him level with Hendry on six Masters wins.He will surely now fancy his chances of beating that record in the years to come and who's to say he wont such was his dominance here today.

The match itself began with a lengthy  first frame that went the way of Hawkins,but that was to be as good as it got for the left hander playing in his first Masters final,as Ronnie found his scoring boots to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Things went from bad to worse for Hawkins when they resumed, as Ronnie,without really been put under any pressure started to pull away at his ease to finish the afternoon leading 7-1.

This one was now as good as over and any slim chance Hawkins may have had of mounting a comeback quickly faded when a fluked pink eventually gave Ronnie the first of the night.That made it 8-1 and the end was to come soon enough as Ronnie got the two frames he needed for an easy 10-1 win.

It was hard not to feel a little sympathy for Hawkins who has played superbly all week,but maybe we just saw evidence here again as to why he has never made that big leap that he undoubtedly has the talent to make. It just seems his Achilles heal is an inability to follow up one big win with another.

As for Ronnie,well what can you say.This is of course not the first time he has claimed a big title after a long lay off,but that should in no way take away from the achievement. His touch here this week was at times not what we've come to expect,but what was consistent in all his matches was his application and this,along with a long game that was as good as its ever been,set him apart from the rest.

Looking back on the tournament as a whole,we have been treated to a week of high quality snooker.with some real fine matches.The venue once again showed itself to be perfect for snooker,but judging by how annoying the odd shouts from the crowd were,we can forever put to bed any idea of a "darts atmosphere" been needed for snooker!

The one slightly worrying thing again,was like at the final stages of the worlds,the pockets seemed to be a little on the generous side and although this helped promote high scoring matches,I'm not sure the sport is best served by it.

Thats a debate for another day though,so for now lets salute our champion.He may not be the world champion or the no.1 in the rankings,but does anyone really think he's not the greatest?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Masters Semi Finals Day

Ronnie O'Sullivan will face Barry Hawkins in tomorrows dafabet Masters final after a day of thrilling semi finals action at the "Ally Pally".

Barry Hawkins reached his first final here with a hard fought 6-4 win over Judd Trump in what was a exceptionally high scoring match.

With the memory of his superb performance against Robertson yesterday fresh in the mind,Trump started the day as a warm favourite,but he could do nothing in the opening two frames as Hawkins flew out of the traps, knocking in back to back centuries (130 & 128) to lead 2-0.

Hawkins was also in first in the next before an unexpected miss allowed Trump a chance to counter which he duly did with 51 and he followed it up with 58 to level it up at 2-2.

Hawkins was first in when they resumed with 74 to edge ahead at 3-2,but runs of 103 & 72 gave Trump the lead for the first time at 4-3.

Hawkins though has been in superb scoring form this week and runs of 78 & 100 put him ahead again at 5-4.The tenth frame was to be the only one that didn't feature a 50 plus break but it was to prove the most dramatic,as Hawkins cleared from the last red including a great blue,to seal a place in the final 6-4.

So maybe a slight case of "after the lord mayors show" for Trump today,but that is to take nothing away from Hawkins who thoroughly deserves his place in the final.

There he will face Ronnie O'Sullivan who had to dig deep to finally see of Stuart Bingham in a hard fought semi final.

To have a chance here you figured Bingham needed a good start and although the first four frames could have each gone either way it was Ronnie who lead at the interval 3-1.

Although he has been scoring alright this week Ronnie has never really had the cueball on a string the way we normally expect from him,but a fluent 121 in the next moved  him 4-1 up.

Bingham got in first with 67 in the next,but when Ronnie got the snooker he needed on the last red ,he duly wrapped up the frame to go 5-1.

It was surely now only a matter of time,but Bingham to his credit dug deep & with Ronnies concentration gone walk about he took the next two to close to 5-3.

The ninth frame was another close dramatic one,but a superb long red from under the black cushion, which Ronnie stunned in to stay on the blue,proved the telling moment as he cleared the colours to win 6-3.

Tomorrows final then will see Ronnie play in his his eleventh Masters final take on Hawkins playing in his first.Ronnie will obviously then start as a warm favourite,but Hawkins has been in fine form all week & if he can stick with Ronnie through the first session who knows?

Whatever happens lets hope for a great final to round off a great week.

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Masters Day Six.

Day six at the 2016 Masters and after another great day in whats been a great weeks snooker,four men remain to battle it out over the weekend for £200,000 top prize.

It has been the case all week that the afternoon session has been where all the good snookers been at,but today brought that to a whole other level,as Judd Trump & Neil Robertson served up a match that will live long in the memory.

A nervy opening frame that went the way Judd was quickly forgotten as 104 from him in the second opened up a 2-0 lead. Robertson,who swept all before him towards the end of 2015,knew now he was in a match,but having got off the board in the next,he knocked in a tournament high break of  139 to go to the interval at 2-2.

In what was already,a high quality match the standard was to go through the roof when play resumed.
Judd got in first with 105 to make it 3-2 and that became 4-2 when he rolled in a 78 in the next.

From here back came Robertson with a 100 of his own to close to 4-3 and when he also took the next ,we were level again at 4-4.

Both players now ere cuing beautifully and it was Trump who edged ahead again in frame nine,topping Robertsons high break from earlier with a 140 of his own to go ahead again at 5-4.Robertson though was not finished as a run of 78 drew things level again at 5-5 to give us the decider that this match deserved.

The way these boys were playing a one chance frame always looked likely and so it proved as Trump cut a wonderful red to the middle pocket and went on to seal the win with a superb 129,his fourth century of the afternoon and the sixth of an extraordinary match.

This was one of those performances from Trump that can only leave you scratching your head as to why he hasn't won more titles,but one things for sure,if he was to repeat this level on a consistent basis he would very quickly become the man they all have to beat.

Of course one of the vagaries of this game is that it could all change by the time he cues up against Barry Hawkins tomorrow and that was certainly the case in tonights quarter final as John Higgins looked a poor shadow of the player man who cued so well against Liang on Wednesday.

The writing was on the wall early on in this one as from the off Higgins looked to be having "one of those days" and the world champ Bingham seeing this,visibly started to show some form which has been missing for most of this season..

It was Bingham who eventually took the first,after both had had chances, but Higgins got off the mark in the second to make it 1-1 and the next two were also shared to send them in at 2-2.

In recent seasons Higgins has been dogged by the "unexpected miss" when seemingly in perfect position,but having seemingly gotten over that this season it returned to haunt him tonight,as he saw each of the next two frames slip by when he really should have clinched both. 

Bingham,now 4-2 up and brimming with confidence knocked in a 70 in frame seven to move within one of a place in the semi finals at 5-2.Higgins did briefly threaten to mount a comeback,taking the next with a 120,but that was to ba as close as he got as Bingham got the frame he needed to seal a 6-3 win.

His reward for this victory over one of the games all time greats,is a semi final tomorrow night against maybe the greatest of them all - Ronnie O'Sullivan..

This could be one hell of a weekend of snooker!!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Master Day Five

There is nothing that captures a sporting publics imagination quite like a rivalry between two top players with completely clashing styles and if you can add to that a little needle,you have the recipe for sporting gold.

That is the reason that even after thirty years the BBC still saw enough in the Davis v Higgins battles of the early 80's to warrant the commissioning of a new drama about it and its the reason that the Ally Pally was packed to the rafters today for its modern day version ,as Ronnie O'Sullivan faced off against Mark Selby.

The last time these two had met was in the 2014 world final,when Selby came back to beat Ronnie and lift his first world crown.It could be argued that O'Sullivan has never fully recovered from that defeat so todays match up was always going to be a big occasion.

Early on here and despite a couple of 50 plus contributions both looked to be struggling to fully settle as they shared the opening two frames to leave it 1-1.From here though it was Ronnie who stepped it up with runs of 69,54 & 58 to go to the interval leading 3-1.

On resumption a 61 from Selby narrowed the gap to 3-2 before a quickfire 100 from Ronnie restored his two frame cushion at 4-2.

The next was the longest frame of the match as things got a bit scrappy,but it was eventually decided when Ronnie,with what was perhaps the most impressive part of his game today,knocked in another superb long red to go to the hill at 5-2.

The one thing we all know about Selby,and Ronnie  more than most,is that the Leicesterman never gives up and he pulled the next back with  68 to close to 5-3.

That comeback seemed to gathering yet more momentum as he was first in with 70 in the next,but Ronnie was not to be denied as he cleared with a magnificent 73 to clinch the frame and match 6-3.

He now awaits a semi final clash with either his old rival John Higgins or the world champ Stuart Bingham and whichever it is we're surely in for another thriller.

Into the night session then and here we saw Barry Hawkins take on Mark Allen.

Allen,who beat the defending champion Shaun Murphy in the last round,got off to the perfect start here with a century to take the opening frame,but that was as good as it got for him early on as Hawkins hit back to win the next three to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Hawkins was looking more comfortable with every shot now and also took the next to lead 4-1.

From here Hawkins did show signs of a slight wobble,but Allen simply wasn't playing well enough to capitalize and although he pulled one back Hawkins ran out a comfortable 6-2 winner.

Tomorrow see's the remaining quarter finals taking place with another mouthwatering afternoon clash,with perhaps a little needle, as Neil Robertson faces Judd Trump and in the evening John Higgins facing Stuart Bingham

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Masters Day Four

Day four at the 2016 Masters saw the conclusion of round one,with two of the games biggest names booking their places in the last 8.

It has been the trend so far this week that the thrillers have all been in the afternoon session and that was to continue today as John Higgins & Liang Wenbo produced a match up of the highest quality.

Higgins,with two titles already under his belt this season,has looked to be back to something nearing his very best and got he got off to the perfect start here with a century to lead 1-0.

Liang though has been playing pretty well himself of late and buoyed on by his run in the UK he hit back to take the next two to lead 2-1.Higgins though was striking the ball beautifully and another century,this time a 104 brought him level at 2-2.

The trend continued after the interval,with Higgins scoring the heavier (75 & 133) to edge ahead and Liang refusing to roll over to level things up at 3-3 & 4-4.

Higgins got the upper hand again with an 85 to go 5-4 up and was first in in the next only to get a kick and allow Liang the chance to counter.He could only manage 53 though and when he missed a green along the baulk cushion the end was nigh,Higgins duly cleared to the pink to book a last 8 clash with the world champ Stuart Bingham.

Into the night session & once again we had an unexpected early finish as Neil Robertson thrashed a badly out of sorts Marco Fu 6-0.

There not much to really say about this one, Robertson looks in fine stroke again as he was when he lifted last months UK title,but really he was put under absolutely no pressure.That surely wont be the case when he faces Judd Trump in the quarters on Friday.

Before that though,we begin the Quarter finals tomorrow with the much anticipated clash between Ronnie O'Sullivan & Mark Selby in the afternoon with Mark Allen taking on Barry Hawkins tomorrow night.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Masters Day Three

Day Three at the Masters and there was one thing on everyones mind,the return of Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Today he faced off against his old foe Mark Williams in a match that on paper promised much and did not disappoint.

The question been asked was,despite his fine form in Crondon Park last week,would Ronnie be sharp enough after 8 months away from the main match arena?Well  we got our answer to that question straight away as he took the opening frame in convincing fashion to lead 1-0.

That quickly became 2-0 when he took the next on the colours and it looked for all the world like becoming 3-0 only for Ronnie to miscue on the black and Williams cleared to get off the mark.Williams also took the next to send us to the mid session interval at 2-2.

The Williams momentum continued when play resumed as he took the lead for the first time at 3-2 and the Welshman seemed to be warming to the task as he also won the next to extend his lead to 4-2.

What could Ronnie do?well he did what we've so often seen him do in the past.He turned it on.

Breaks of 104 & 60 quickly drew him level at 4-4,before another century,this time a 117 put him one from victory at 5-4.

Into the tenth frame we went then and what a dramatic frame it proved to be,Williams was first in with 50,only to gift Ronnie a chance to comeback and clear for the match.He looked set to do so,but ran out of ideal position on the last red with his break also on 50 and when he failed to cut it in Williams pounced to make it 5-5.

The crowd were by now on the edge of their seats as the players came to table for the decider.Here it was Williams who got in first,but he failed to make it count and when he later failed to make a plant when left with little chance but to attempt it Ronnie produced a superb 62 to seal a thrilling 6-5 win.

Job done then for Ronnie,but if tonight is anything to go by,he'll have to be at his very best in the next round,because Mark Selby looked back to his very best easing past Ricky Walden 6-0 to book his quarter final place.

It was actually Walden who got in first here with a run of 52 ,but that was to be as good as it got for him as Selby cleared with 71 to lead 1-0.He seem to be inspired by this as he stormed into a 4-0 lead with further runs of 113,66 & 81.

He couldn't quite keep up the scoring after the interval,but by then Walden was a broken man and Selby ensured an early night sealing the 6-0 win.

That leaves just two place left to be filled in the last eight and that will be done tomorrow when John Higgins faces Masters debutant Liang Wenbo in the afternoon and Neil Robertson play Marco Fu  tomorrow night.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The masters Day Two

Day Two at the Masters then and the tournament is  beginning to take shape with four big names now into the Quarter Finals.

For the second day in a row we were served up a high quality afternoon session as Judd Trump battled it out with Stephen Maguire for a place in the quarters,

Just how good a match this was was evident at the interval as Maguire somehow found himself  3-1 behind despite having had three 50 plus breaks.Trump extended his lead when they resumed,a run of 69 extending his lead to 4-1.but far from discouraging Maguire this seemed only to stir him on as with breaks of 92,74 & 56 he levelled the game up at 4-4.

Trump by now must have been wondering was history repeating itself after he had seen a similar lead slip against Liang in the UK Championship,but it wasn't to happen here as a 60 break edged him ahead again at 5-4 & he took the next to seal his place in the next round with a 6-4 win.

There he will meet the winner between Neil Robertson & Marco Fu. whose match brings round one to an end on Wednesday evening.

In the evening session  Barry Hawkins finally won his first ever match at The Masters beating Joe Perry in a topsy turvy encounter.

Hawkins was the quicker out of the blocks here,taking the first two frames to lead 2-0,but the momentum seemed to shift towards Perry then as he won the next three to lead 3-2.That lead really should have extended to 4-2 in the next,but it was Hawkins who took it to make it 3-3 and he kicked on from there to also take the next three and book a quarter final against Mark Allen with a comfortable 6-3 victory.

So perhaps an earlier than expected finish to day two only serves to give us more time to concentrate on tomorrows afternoon session and the return to the main stage of Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Masters Day One

A mixed first day at the 2016 Masters then saw an afternoon of high quality snooker followed by an evening session that is best forgotten. 

First up in the afternoon Mark Allen brought a quick end to any hopes Shaun Murphy had of making it  back to back Masters titles.with a 6-4 win in a thrilling opening match of the tournament.

Though both players did start off a little tentatively here,it didn't take long for both to find their scoring boots and a series of good breaks,the best of them a 137 from Allen,brought us to the interval at 2-2 Allen added a 91 to go 3-2 ahead when they resumed,before an extraordinary frame 6 which came to an abrupt end.when Murphy fell foul of the three miss rule to extend Allens lead to 4-2.

The Northern Irishman took the next with a run of 104 to go within one of victory at 5-2,We've often seen with Murphy though.that these situations can bring out the best in him and it appeared it might be happening here again as breaks of 67 & 100 closed him to within one again at 5-4.

That was where it was to end though as Allen took a scrappier tenth frame to seal the 6-4 win and book his place in  the quarter finals where he'll meet the winner of Barry Hawkins & Joe Perry.

The second match of the day saw the clash of two players,in world champ Stuart Bingham & Ding Junhui,who would have come here this week hoping a good run might kick start,what for both has been,a very poor season so far

It is perhaps then with this in mind that it was little surprise to see such a scrappy match unfold this evening.Indeed the main highlight of the first four frames came when having potted 15 reds & blacks Bingham missed a difficult yellow to bring his maximum attempt to an end on 120. He still though did enough to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Things didn't improve much then either as Ding,without really upping his game at all, took the next two to level at 3-3.That became 4-4,before a lengthy ninth frame which Bingham nicked with a brown to pink clearance to edge ahead again 5-4.The tenth was another long frame,but Bingham did enough to win in and clinch his place in the quarter final with a 6-4 win.

All of course which means further despair for Ding in what is turning into a season to forget and a some small encouragement for Bingahm who was winning his first match at the Masters for ten years.He will though need to improve a lot if he is to trouble either John Higgins or Liang Wenbo in the next round.

The first round action continues tomorrow with Judd Trump facing Stephen Maguire in the afternoon and Barry Hawkins playing Joe Perry in the evening.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2016 Masters Preview

Snooker in London in mid January can only mean one thing and that is that its time once again for the games biggest invitational event,The Masters at Alexander Palace.

Of course by its nature,this tournament is a showcase for the games top 16 players and as such in theory should mean everybody has equal billing,but really there is really only one place to start.

Ronnie O'Sullivan thrilled snooker fans & I dare say the tournament organisers when he announced in early December that he was returning from his self imposed exile in time to compete here.His first competitive action came in the German Masters qualifiers & although his lack of match sharpness there saw him exit in round 2,he certainly showed a vast improvement just this week,as he won 8 matches out of 8 in winning Championship League Group One.A repeat of,not just that form,but also his seemingly relaxed attitude around the table will make him hard to beat this week.

Others though will have plenty to say about that assessment & Neil Robertson will surely feel a repeat of the form he showed in last months UK championship will see him go close to another title here

The same can be said for John Higgins who,with two titles under his belt already this season,can probably count himself a tad unlucky to have lost to Robertson in that UK.

Also throw into the mix the defending champion Shaun Murphy who was superb here last year,Mark Selby,who regardless of how he's playing,is always a danger in this event ,as well as a couple of players like the world champion Stuart Bingham,Judd Trump & Ding Junhui who will all feel they've something to prove here this week and we're left with potentially the most exciting week of snooker we've seen in a long time.

The action gets under way tomorrow afternoon with Shaun Murphy starting his defence against Mark Allen.Let to games begin!