Masters Final Preview

It’s a repeat of 2012 as Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy will contest the 2015 Masters final today at Alexandra Palace.

Robertson also beat Murphy in the 2013 semi-final - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
Robertson also beat Murphy in the 2013 semi-final – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Three years ago the Australian emerged victorious with his first title in London after a 10-6 win over the ‘Magician’.

And it is hard to bet against a repeat result such has been the dominant display Robertson has produced since going 4-3 down to Robert Milkins in the opening round this week.

Since then, the 32 year-old has won 15 out of the next 17 frames he has played, including a brace of 6-1 drubbings over Ali Carter and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Before yesterday’s semi-final against the defending champion, most queried whether or not Robertson would be able to repeat his high standard and, while he wasn’t quite as efficient as in his last eight bout with the ‘Captain’, he duly delivered with an all-conquering performance over the favourite.

Defeat for O’Sullivan marked his first of note on home soil since the World Championship final in Sheffield last May, ending a 15-match winning streak in the process.

In that Crucible encounter, O’Sullivan’s composure suffered as his opponent Mark Selby continuously put him under intense pressure throughout and Robertson was just as effective in his aggressive approach on Saturday.

The world no.1 opened the match with a 100 century to gain a foothold in the contest but the tie arguably hinged on the second frame, when O’Sullivan led by 64 points before inexplicably missing frame ball black off the spot.

Robertson responded with a very accomplished 66 clearance and O’Sullivan was on the back foot thereafter.

In the evening session, England’s Murphy went into the clash with Allen as the favourite following the latter’s questionable standard in the previous round but it was the Northern Irishman who in fact got off to the better start.

Breaks of 83 and 62 earned Allen a 2-0 lead early on before Murphy fought back in what was to become a high-scoring stretch of frames for the 32 year-old.

The Waterford Crystal trophy they are playing for - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
The Waterford Crystal trophy they are playing for – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

After winning the third, Murphy compiled runs of 80, 83, 76, 102 and 60 as he overwhelmed his challenger to reach a second final in the prestigious invitation tournament.

Murphy has looked in fine form for most of the last 12 months, with three European Tour series triumphs to his credit as well as the World Open success at the tail end of the last campaign.

The 2005 world champion and 2008 UK winner has for a long time now labeled the Masters as the next most important trophy to capture in his career as he attempts to complete the career Triple Crown of snooker majors.

Last weekend, he cautiously expressed that he was giving himself until 2025 to achieve the feat, not exactly fighting talk on the eve of the big event.

Yet, perhaps by taking some of the pressure off his shoulders he was able to manoeuvre his was through the rounds with a little more ease.

Murphy will certainly be feeling the pressure, though, on Sunday as he tries to gain some revenge over Robertson.

The pair, who are the same age and came up through the ranks more or less together, has unsurprisingly met a large amount of times – 17, excluding Championship and Premier League affairs.

The head-to-head advantage is with the ‘Thunder from Down Under’, victorious 11 times to Murphy’s six, with the Englishman winning only once in eight encounters since the 2010 UK Championship.

Even without those stats, on quality alone this week Robertson must start this final as the man most equipped with landing the title and Murphy will really have to be at the top of his game to have a chance of upsetting those odds.

A good start is key for Murphy because Robertson has shown on ample occasions in the past how proficient a front-runner he can be.

Prediction: A repeat of the 10-6 scoreline in 2012.

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