In the lead up to this week’s Masters tournament, as happens every year, much was made of the fact that in-form champion Neil Robertson has history against him when it comes to defending his crowd.
Only three players have done exactly that in snooker’s history, but few will be betting against that becoming four after the Australian came back from 5-3 to win the remaining three frames and defeat Ding Junhui in an enthralling opening match at this year’s tournament at Alexander Palace.
Robertson showed nerve and a steely resolve in coming back from the brink to knock out the world number eight and secure his place in round two.
It’s why he’s currently 4/1 joint-favourite – along with the prodigal Judd Trump – to retain his title and add his name to the record books, a feat last done by the late Paul Hunter in 2002.
Monday sees third favourite John Higgins begin his quest to win a third Masters title, a trophy that has alluded on the last six occasions.
In Ali Carter, Higgins faces an opponent who may still be a reeling from a disappointing 9-8 semi-final loss in the UK Championship final in December.
Carter led 8-4 before Shaun Murphy staged a miraculous recovery to make the final. The crushing defeat came in the same year Carter experienced World Championship heartache, losing 18-11 to a rampant Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. With Higgins keen to improve on his Masters record of ten first round losses from 18, he’ll be eager to extend Carter’s misery with victory at 8/15.
Doubling that up with a Stephen Maguire victory over Graeme Dott (also 8/15) in tomorrow’s second encounter adds even more value (£10 returns £23.50), and the world number six should be fancied against his fellow Scot, with him not only edging their career head-to-heads 6-5 but also having beaten Dott in their most recent meeting, a 4-3 victory in a Players Tour Championship match, featuring a splendid break of 129 by the Glaswegian.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.