So the BGC Masters is here at its new home, the Alexandra Palace in London.
The top 16 are fighting for one of snooker’s most sought after trophies. Let’s have a look at today’s two matches…
DING JUNHUI V RONNIE O’SULLIVAN
Their last Masters meeting ended with O’Sullivan sportingly consoling a tearful Ding following a 10-3 rout which included some sensational snooker.
O’Sullivan has struggled for form, motivation and results of late but he has a fine record in this tournament: nine finals and four titles.
Ding I thought was superb last year. He has matured as a player and a person since that Wembley horror show five years ago and was assured in winning the title 12 months ago.
He is yet to really set the baize alight this season but is a class act, capable of turning it on with the best of them.
In most tournaments I would fancy him to come through but this is O’Sullivan’s territory. He usually gets himself up for the Masters and tends to revel in the great atmosphere the packed house is bound to provide.
Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 6-4
MARK WILLIAMS V STEPHEN MAGUIRE
Williams won the title in 1998 and 2003 and has recently returned to the top of the game after a spell in the doldrums.
Maguire has been consistent since winning the 2008 China Open but it wasn’t until last week at PTC12 that he won another televised title.
This is not the reason I am plumping for a Scottish win. Maguire has a good record against Williams; he always seems to play well against him.
I recall they once played in the Welsh Open and Maguire produced a masterclass in foot-on-the-throat snooker, not eye-catching centuries but 50-odd followed by a good safety, keeping the Welshman on the back foot.
I would never write Mark off. He’s one of the all time greats but he is experimenting with a new cue, and that could be a factor either in his favour or not.
Either way, Maguire is full of confidence right now.
Prediction: Maguire to win 6-3