O’Sullivan can equal the century-scoring record in first round clash with Walden
Defending champion and tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan gets his Masters campaign underway on Tuesday afternoon and we can expect him to do so in some style, knocking in centuries along the way.
The Rocket is in fine fettle at the moment having won the last two tournaments he has entered; the Champion of Champions and the UK Championship. He heads to the Alexandra Palace having lifted the Masters trophy five times before and he is runaway favourite to make it six this time round.
O’Sullivan meets Ricky Walden in the first round in a repeat of their quarter-final clash from 12 months ago. Walden is a fine player but that meeting a year ago is a worrying barometer for him as the Rocket stormed to a 6-0 victory in less than an hour. The 556 unanswered points that O’Sullivan racked up set a new world record and embarrassed Ricky in the process.
Whilst we cannot expect a repeat of that remarkable display, we can expect O’Sullivan to emerge victorious again. We can also be confident that he will be making some big breaks this week as he looks to track down the world record number of centuries. Stephen Hendry is the leading century-scorer with 775 and O’Sullivan is now just two behind; it will be a big shock if he does not surpass that total this tournament and he may well even match it in the first round.
The table are clearly playing well at Ally Pally as Mark Selby hit two centuries in the opening session of the competition and then Marco Fu hit three in the second, including a maximum 147 break. O’Sullivan and Walden are more than capable of producing another couple between them on Tuesday and over 1.5 centuries looks a great bet at 5/4.
The second match of the day sees Barry Hawkins take on Ali Carter in a match that should be closer than the odds suggest. Hawkins is the clear favourite and is playing well having reached the semi-finals of the Lisbon Open last month and winning Championship League Group One just last week, knocking in a maximum on the way. However, the world number five has never won a match at the Masters which will be playing on his mind this week.
Carter also showed good form in the Championship League, reaching the semi-finals of Group Two, beating the likes of Judd Trump and Stuart Bingham along the way. Whilst his Masters record is also poor he has at least won in the competition before and has reached the last eight in the past.
I still expect Hawkins to come away with the win but he will be nervous and with Carter playing well, over 9.5 frames looks a good price at EVENS.
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ricky Walden Over 1.5 Centuries @ 5/4
Barry Hawkins v Ali Carter Over 9.5 Frames @ EVENS