big snooker event

Neil Robertson Sets up Ronnie Clash

Neil Robertson and Marco Fu were the latest two players to reach the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters after recording first round victories on Tuesday.

Robertson has three final appearances at Ally Pally in the last five years. Photo credit: World Snooker

For a third day in a row, the Alexandra Palace in London was packed with a practically sell-out crowd.

The 2,000 or so lucky punters who had tickets for the afternoon session of play between Fu and Judd Trump were especially treated to a magnificent spectacle of snooker.

It marked a repeat of their 2014 clash at the same stage, with Fu managing to record a similar outcome as he fought back superbly from 3-0, 4-2, and 5-4 behind to prevail in a decider, 6-5.

In a high-scoring affair which featured five century breaks and a further nine runs over 50 between them, Fu prolonged his magnificent run of form which began when he was narrowly defeated in the last four of the UK Championship before romping to success at the Scottish Open before Christmas.

The Hong Konger has always been a talented competitor and a prolific scorer, but an aura of confidence is currently adding a new dimension to his game.

The fact that Fu has now twice come from 3-0 behind in important encounters – he also overturned 3-0 and 4-1 deficits to deny John Higgins home glory in Glasgow – is testament to the 39 year-old’s renewed competitiveness against his elite batch of rivals.

Trump will be desperately disappointed to fail again in the prestigious invitational, but aside from a couple of missed opportunities he couldn’t really have played much better.

Fu moves forward to face Mark Allen next, and what an opportunity it is for both of them to move one step closer to a maiden triumph in a Triple Crown event.

Australia’s Robertson ensured that it was a bad day for the homegrown English talent as he returned to form with a 6-3 win over Ali Carter.

The 2012 champion has performed below his high standards since the summer months but five half-centuries and a 117 in the last frame saw the 34 year-old set up a mouthwatering clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Robertson will be hoping to avenge his humiliating whitewash defeat at the hands of the ‘Rocket’ when the pair last did battle in the European Masters, arguably where Robertson’s form began its sudden decline.

Meanwhile, the first round comes to a conclusion on Wednesday with the seventh and eighth ties from the last 16.

The afternoon session has world no.1 Mark Selby up against fellow multiple Masters winner Mark Williams, while the 2015 champion Shaun Murphy takes on last year’s runner-up Barry Hawkins this evening.

As the runaway leader in the world rankings, Selby is obviously a firm favourite against Williams with the 33 year-old bidding to complete the ‘Selby Slam’ this week – of holding the World, UK, and Masters titles all at once.

Williams, though, does possess a good overall record against the ‘Jester’ and is unlikely to become phased by the opponent or the occasion.

With the dizzy heights that Selby has reached over the last eight or nine months it’s hard to imagine anybody toppling him, but Williams represents a tricky first challenge from the new year.

For Hawkins the task seems a lot greater, with the ‘Hawk’ having only tasted victory against Murphy on one occasion in their nine previous duels.

That said, aside from their epic World Championship semi-final of 2015, Murphy and Hawkins have not met too often in recent years – a period which arguably has been Hawkins’ most formidable on the circuit.

The latter will be desperate to erase the painful memories of his crushing 10-1 loss to O’Sullivan in last year’s final.

Murphy, on the other hand, has consistently been knocking on the door this season without ultimately managing to reach a final or obtain any silverware.

The smart money would be on Selby and Murphy, but once again this edition of the Masters is proving most difficult to predict.

Coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw.

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