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Conditioned Conditions

Half of the eight first round matches went to deciding frame shootouts this week.

A further two encounters required ten out of the potential eleven frames, proving that the Masters is an event that brings together fiercely competitive rivals at the highest echelon of the sport.

However, the standard of play has not always been that good, a fact highlighted by the dismal quality produced in the Neil Robertson and Mark Allen match on Wednesday.

Both players had top runs of a century break but that didn’t tell even half of the story of an eagerly anticipated contest that proved to be a letdown in terms of calibre.

This was peculiar, especially given the fact that the duo had played out three exciting contests in each of the last three Masters editions – not least last year which also went down to the wire 6-5.

Despite finishing with the same scoreline and outcome, 2014’s clash couldn’t have been in more stark contrast to the previous.

Robertson showed few signs of why he is the undisputed world no.1 in the rankings right now and recent UK champion, while Allen’s steely bottle was rarely in sight.

Usually professional players at this level are happy to have a couple, or even just one, chance per frame – Robertson and Allen were needing five or six to put the other away.

The Northern Irishman will feel particularly aggrieved considering he was never behind in the match until the final frame, each time going an odd frame in front until it was 5-4.

Allen reportedly was honest in his assessment afterwards and admitted that he just played poorly but Australia’s Robertson immediately hinted that the conditions were to blame in his post-match interview.

Analyst Steve Davis also considered the case in the BBC studio prior to the match’s conclusion when, at one point, the players asked for the cueball to be changed.

Of course, conditions play a factor in every sport.

However, a lot of snooker players seem to be very quick to defend themselves against the mere possibility that they simply had a bad day at the office – which this really was.

Anyway, Robertson will be happy enough to have progressed and is unlikely to play as badly again in his quarter-final bout with Stephen Maguire on Friday as he bids to reach the final at Ally Pally for the third successive season.

The second match last night was a much better spectacle by all accounts, although I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing any of it.

Barry Hawkins raced into a 3-0 lead over Ricky Walden with breaks of 85, 57 and 132 before the pair traded runs of  50, 112, 100 and 59 to leave the score at 5-2 in favour of the World Championship runner-up.

But Walden, who has consistently performed well in the BBC majors of late, started his comeback with a 73 in the eighth frame before he survived a re-spotted black in the next.

After the Chester cueist forced the decider he was always going to start as the favourite and he duly obliged by completing the turnaround in an entertaining tie that last more than four hours.

Walden’s reward is a meeting with Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Today, the first two quarter-final matches take place with John Higgins taking on the defending champion Mark Selby and former finalists Shaun Murphy and Marco Fu doing battle.

The full draw can be viewed here

Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.