Friday, 11 January 2013

Masters step forward

The masters of our game are ready to fight it out again for one of snooker's real glory titles.

The appropriately named Masters event is all about history and prestige. Returning to Alexandra Palace this weekend for a second season, the line-up is, as always, packed with top stars.

With No easy path, an electric London atmosphere and the best players in the world waiting with every turn, we're in for treat.

The Masters - although not a ranking event - is one of those tournaments that really gets the juices flowing.

As well as a huge £175,000 top prize, next week is a chance for someone to stand up and be counted, claim a chapter of snooker history as their own and join a list of winners boasting all the greats.

In fact, six of this year's 16-man field have already etched their name on the trophy.

Great players always win this great title. Every snooker fan remembers a golden moment from the Masters down the years. It's the longest running event on the calendar behind the World Championship and has produced some of snooker's most exciting memories.

What do you remember most fondly? It could be John Spencer's win against Ray Reardon at the first event in 1975 in the deciding frame. One of Alex Higgins' great performances?

It might be Cliff Thorburn winning three titles in four years from 1983 to 1986.

Maybe Stephen Hendry's five-year winning run from 1989 to 1993 ranks highest? Or when Alan McManus put a halt to his compatriot, beating him 9-8 in the 1994 final.

Then we had another classic in 1998. Mark Williams took down six-time winner Hendry on a respotted black.

Paul Hunter is synonymous with the Masters. He found domination between 2001 and 2004, winning three finals on deciding frames in four years.

John Higgins produced a masterful clearance to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in 2006, who then reduced Ding Junhui to tears a year later with a 10-3 win masterclass.

One of the modern classics was Mark Selby beating Ronnie 10-9 from 9-6 down in 2010.

We really have seen it all at the Masters. And it's easy to see why the tournament is so popular. The competition will always be a hit with Londoners; it's the only time the sport comes vaguely near England's capital.

Us southerners love our snooker and Ally Pally has definitely given the Masters an extra edge. It's an absolutely unmissable BBC classic this year.

With a mouthwatering field of potential champions, the anticipation could hardly be greater. And how about this for a curtain-raiser? Defending champion Neil Robertson faces Ding Junhui first up on Sunday.

Enjoy the tournament.

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