Masters: ‘The Rocket’ tipped for seventh heaven

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Ronnie O’Sullivan goes in search of a seventh Masters title when one of the most prestigious events in the snooker calendar gets under way on Sunday.

The defending champion, who routed Barry Hawkins 10-1 in last year’s final, clearly flourishes in a competition he first won 22 years ago.

‘The Rocket’ kicks off this year’s event at London’s Alexandra Palace against Chinese outsider Liang Wenbo and is 11/4 favourite to land the title – and the £200,000 which accompanies it – in a week’s time. 

However, the threat of world number one Mark Selby cannot be ignored, particularly after he fended off a charge from O’Sullivan to win the UK Championship in York in December.

Selby is 15/4 to lift the trophy for a fourth time a week on Sunday – but he appears to have a tougher first round test, with two-time former winner Mark Williams standing in his way.


Backing two other players who have previous in this competition to win their first round matches could prove profitable. Shaun Murphy has lifted the trophy once and John Higgins twice – and if the pair see off Hawkins and Mark Allen respectively in the first round, it will deliver a 7/5 double.

Punters who like a bigger price would do well to consider how well Marco Fu fared last year. 

After being edged out by Selby in the World Championship semis, the Hong Kong player won eight frames in a row to stun Higgins 9-4 and land the Scottish Open.

The 39-year-old’s record in this competition is not great – Fu’s previous best was a semi-final appearance in 2008 – so backing him to win it at 28/1 might be a tad optimistic.

However, he can upset the tournament’s third favourite Judd Trump in the first round – particularly as the talented Bristolian finished the year with two damaging defeats – and 17/10 looks to be an inviting price for Fu

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Stuart has worked at the Press Association for nearly 20 years, beginning on Teletext Sport before moving on to oversee the company’s Football League coverage and now in the role of Sport Production Editor. A lifelong Norwich City supporter and father of two, junior football and an allotment takes up most of his spare time.