Thursday, 17 January 2013

Heading to Alexandra Palace

You can't beat the buzz of the venue.

Today, I'm off to the Alexandra Palace to taste the London atmosphere and watch some mouthwatering action from the quarter-finals.

The line-up at the Masters is always first class but now we're down to the really serious business as the first round winners return for their second matches of the tournament.

The drama this week has already been gripping. With the stakes getting even higher, and the final drawing closer, you can expect more of the same.

I can't wait to get into my seat and settle down for four great matches.

Here's a quick look ahead to the Masters menu...

Mark Allen v Neil Robertson

A battle of two incredibly gifted left-handers.

Robertson is the defending champion and a slight favourite given his excellent all-round game. He has no real weaknesses. He can pot long balls, make big breaks, control the pace of a match and play safety with the very best.

The Aussie is a big occasion player but the pressure of trying to become only the fourth Masters champion to defend his title could be a stumbling block. His deciding frame win against Ding suggests he's up for the battle though.

Norther Ireland's Allen is one of the best fighters around and has his eyes on a major prize. He was clinical in his 6-2 win against Mark Davis and can cause anyone problems when he's on song. He will thrive off the buzz inside the venue.

John Higgins v Shaun Murphy

Always a good match guaranteed between these two classy cueists.

Higgins has a poor record at the Masters despite reaching four finals and lifting the trophy twice. But he came through his match against Ali Carter fairly comfortable once he found his form.

He seems to like Alexandra Palace, winning three of his four matches here.

Last year's runner-up, Murphy, knocked him out here last year in the semi-finals, but Higgins is playing much better a year on.

Murphy didn't quite match up to Robertson in the final 12 months ago and was a little short versus Mark Selby in the recent UK Championship final too. He'll want to find soemthing extra go one better to win a major title again.

He usually starts tournaments impressively. He did enough to beat Ricky Walden earlier this week but didn't play his best. He will need to be at his best to beat Higgins. That's not a question.

Judd Trump v Graeme Dott

Both players are fortunate to be here after going the distance in round one.

World number two Judd won three on the spin to recover from 5-3 down to Barry Hawkins. After losing his opening match at the last BBC event this comeback should give him a boost of confidence.

Trump loves being the centre of attention and should thrive at the Masters, which looks built for a player with his talent and flair.

Dott worked hard to beat fellow Scot Stephen Maguire but will need to crank it up another level to keep control of Judd.

Mark Williams v Mark Selby

Two great comebacks see these two, two-time Masters winners, paired in the last eight.

Williams won five in a row from 4-1 down to beat Matthew Stevens, but the match overall was a poor standard. He hasn't won a major event in nearly two years but is capable of flicking into form.

Selby also won five in succession against Stuart Bingham from 5-1 behind. He proved why he was world number one with some wonderful pots and breaks under pressure.

A win like this will make him feel unbeatable. He's an ultimate match player and as tenacious as they come.

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