With the Betfred Masters kicking off on Sunday, we’ve consulted top pundit, current world number 50 and 1994 Masters champion Alan McManus to look ahead to the opening round encounters.
Here’s Alan’s predictions and thoughts on how the matches could pan out…
Sunday 10th January
1pm – Judd Trump vs David Gilbert
Alan’s Prediction – Judd Trump Win
“It is the worst draw David Gilbert could have got and isn’t that typical when you aren’t necessarily in the best of form? He’s up against the best player in the world. Judd won’t be taking his foot off the gas, he’ll know Dave has been struggling, but he isn’t daft enough to think it will be a breeze. I hope Dave plays well, when he is producing his best, he is a dream to watch.”
7pm – Kyren Wilson vs Jack Lisowski
Alan’s Prediction – Jack Lisowski Win
“In terms of the world’s top 32, in my opinion, they are the two players who have improved the most in recent times. I think Kyren’s cue ball control is a lot better and has improved out of sight. Jack’s run to the World Grand Prix final before Christmas was really impressive. I’ve never seen him play like that before. He was taking his time and he actually looked very solid. I know he did score well, but his game looked solid. It wasn’t all that flashy. That is what I have been waiting for from him. Now that I have seen it, I really like it. I actually have a feeling he will do well at the Masters this year. I have a sneaky suspicion Jack will win this match. It is a close call, but I fancy him to take it.”
Monday 11th January
1pm – Stuart Bingham vs Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Alan’s Prediction – Stuart Bingham Win
“I think being defending champion it is the sort of thing that will help Stuart Bingham. I feel he is a warm favourite in this match. He’s such a good scorer, his all round game is really good.
“What Un-Nooh hasn’t done yet is play anywhere near his best on the biggest of stages. He took Judd Trump to 10-9 at the Crucible, but other than that he hasn’t shown enough for me to tip him to beat Bingham. The one thing Un-Nooh isn’t great at is mixing it up. When the situation arises, do you have something different to offer? The one dimension he has is awesome and we all love watching it. However, if you were his coach you would be pulling your hair out at times. He plays so carefree that he can come a cropper.”
7pm – Shaun Murphy vs Mark Williams
Alan’s Prediction – On The Fence
“This is an interesting one. I think you could make a case for both and I’m actually going to sit on the fence. I have a feeling Shaun will be more well prepared for this than he has in any of the other events so far this season. Shaun likes the big stage and he is always liable to do something special in events like the Masters.
“With Mark Williams, as players get older you are never sure the form they are going to show. Like John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan, you can never discount him. He’s that good. I think playing against Shaun is a good match for Mark. He is bound to get chances, but it is a bit of a coin flip match weighing everything up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bookies can’t split them either.”
Tuesday 12th January
1pm – Neil Robertson vs Yan Bingtao
Alan’s Prediction – Neil Robertson Win
“Yan beat Neil 6-1 at the UK Championship in 2019, so he knows he can get the job done. I’m still trying to figure Yan out a bit. Robertson is a massive favourite in this game. Like Judd Trump, he just always scores heavily. Whether Yan can score heavily enough here, I just don’t know. It would be nice to see a good match and Yan is capable, he comes up with the odd result here or there that you don’t see coming. Robertson will need to be on his guard, but he is a heavy favourite.”
7pm – Mark Selby vs Stephen Maguire
Alan’s Prediction – Mark Selby Win
“I think someone like Mark Selby is definitely better at adapting to these changed conditions and behind closed doors events. Just the way he sets his game up, how his mind is and how strong he is mentally. I’m sure away from tournaments he is finding it as difficult as anyone else. What he seems to have done is maintain the keenness. There are some players that have dropped off mentally, but not him. Stephen Maguire was struggling a bit towards the end of the year, as I was myself. That is wholly understandable.
“On current form you have to tip Mark. However, the good thing Stephen has in his favour is decent form over a long period of time. The last year and a half he has been playing good stuff. I think Mark is a marginal favourite, but not a big one. I believe Stephen will show up and play well, this could be the tie of the round.”
Wednesday 13th January
1pm – Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Ding Junhui
Alan’s Prediction – Ronnie O’Sullivan Win
“I always cast my mind back to Ding beating O’Sullivan at the 2017 World Championship. That was the best I have ever seen Ding play. However, he doesn’t do it enough against O’Sullivan. I just think Ronnie will find something to win this match. When push comes to shove, I think Ronnie will play well.
“I have a feeling Ronnie will have gone away and focussed on this event. He pulled out last year and I don’t think he will have enjoyed watching that from the sidelines. He’s won it seven times and I think winning it again will be a big thing for him. It is a massive event and the Masters is reaching that stage where it is a huge feather in your cap to win. I think Ronnie will be serious for this. This is the match that as a viewer or a fan, I would look forward to watching the most.”
7pm – John Higgins vs Mark Allen
Alan’s Prediction – John Higgins Win
“A match between two players with new cues. The telling thing for me is that John is playing in the Championship League this week. In previous years he wouldn’t have done that, so I think it tells you everything. I’ve been keeping an eye on his results and he is playing well. For that reason alone, I make John the favourite for this match.
“Mark works really hard on the practice table, I have witnessed that first hand. The way that he practises really impresses me, so he will be prepared and looking forward to playing. John has been consistent for a long period of time, not near his best, but still playing well. I think the sharpness he will get from the Championship League makes him favourite.”