With snooker a more global sport than ever before, the number of tournaments has never been so high. Players have to jet across the world now to earn a living. But the three most prestigious tournaments still take place in the UK. There’s the World Championships, the UK Championships and this – the crème de la crème – the Masters.
An invitational event that’s run for 43 years now, only the very top players receive the call to attend. So it’s a tournament that no highly-ranked professional wants to miss out on. It isn’t a ranking tournament, but it’s more than that. The Masters is about kudos, cachet and, well, quite a lot of money if you win…
Let’s take a sneak peek of what to expect from the 2018 Masters snooker tournament that starts soon, shall we?
Where’s it happening?
London. Specifically, Alexandra Palace (or ‘Ally Pally’ to those of you that like rhyming things). A music venue and excellent darts arena that’s hosted the Masters since 2011, Alexandra Palace’s West Hall is a 2,000 seater affair and offers a top atmosphere. Tickets will set you back anywhere from £16 to £76 direct from the venue’s website.
When’s it on?
Snooker’s very best duke it out in North London for a week, starting the 14th January. The final can be watched on Sunday 21st.
Is it on TV?
You betcha. The Beeb will continue their excellent snooker coverage and follow every ball potted. You’ll be able to watch all of the Masters action live across BBC Two, the BBC Red Button and Connected TV. As well as follow what’s happening on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.
If you’re planning on staying tuned to the BBC for the week, live coverage is on between 1pm and 5.15pm. And evening sessions are on the Red Button. Daily highlights programmes can be caught between 11.15pm and Midnight, with extended highlights from Midnight until 2am.
Eurosport and Eurosport Player are also covering the event. So there really is potting galore all over the place. Lovely stuff.
What’s the format?
Because there are only sixteen players, we go straight into a ‘Last 16’ scenario. Kind of like a big football tournament after the group stage. The world ranking’s top eight players are seeded for the first match and the rest are drawn in lots.
Which gave us the following matches to begin with:
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Marco Fu (Tuesday January 16, 1pm)
Mark Allen v Luca Brecel (Sunday January 14, 7pm)
John Higgins v Anthony McGill (Wednesday January 17, 7pm)
Ding Junhui v Ryan Day (Monday January 15, 1pm)
Judd Trump v Liang Wenbo (Monday January 15, 7pm)
Shaun Murphy v Ali Carter (Wednesday January 17, 1pm)
Barry Hawkins v Kyren Wilson (Tuesday January 16, 7pm)
Mark Selby v Mark Williams (Sunday January 14, 1pm)
Then it’s quarters, semis and then, obviously, the final. All games are best of eleven frames except the final, which is best of nineteen.
Well, as it’s the Masters, it’s the same as ever – the world’s top sixteen players will be competing. It’s a familiar bunch, save for a few newer faces and one big omission. Not too many casual fans will recognise the face of Belgian potter Luca Brecel. And some might not be overly au fait with the games of Anthony McGill, Liang Wenbo or Kyren Wilson. But those youngsters aside, most players will bring back some great snooker memories.
One player we won’t be seeing this year though is the Australian Neil Robertson. A recent dip in form has seen him drop out of the top sixteen. This will be the first Masters that Robertson will be missing out on since way back in 2006.
Alright, so who’s the reigning champ?
Take a guess. Yup, that’s right. Mr. Ronnie O’Sullivan. Even when the man’s not on form, he’s on form. The winner of the recent(ish) 2017 UK Snooker Championship is also the current holder of the Masters’ rather gaudy glass trophy.
The Rocket beat Gentleman Joe Perry in last year’s Masters final, ten frames to seven. The reigning champ goes into the tournament as the number one seed and, obviously, the man to beat.
What’s the prize fund on offer?
There’s a shade over half a million in the prize pot for this year’s Dafabet Masters. And the money breaks down like this:
Winner – £200,000
Runner-up – £90,000
Semi-finalists – £50,000
Quarter-finalists – £25,000
Last 16 – £12,500
Highest break of the tournament – £10,000
Total prize find – £600,000
The money on offer for a maximum break of 147 stands at just £5,000. So don’t feel too bad if a player gets a kick on that final black…
It’s a week of elite cue sports that you won’t want to miss. Whether you plan on watching a full seven days of snooker action or just catching the odd highlights package, we’re certain you’ll contract snooker fever by the end of it. The cure? Picking up a cue and banging a few balls in down your nearest Rileys!