John Higgins put a stop to a bizarre Masters curse as he became the first higher ranked player to progress to the last eight in London on Tuesday.
The Scot was a comfortable winner as he easily outclassed Barry Hawkins with a 6-1 scoreline at the Alexandra Palace.
The 2020 Masters curse, as some pundits had started calling it, resulted in the first five matches having outcomes that favoured the lower ranked seed.
Five former champions – Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen, and 2019 winner Judd Trump – succumbed to the hoodoo over the course of the opening two and a half days.
Hawkins, though, never looked like joining his peers in the lower half of the top 16 in causing an upset.
The 2016 runner-up has openly admitted to a struggle for form and drive recently, and it was fully evident in a lacklustre display that his opponent took advantage of.
Higgins, twice a Masters champion but with a mediocre record overall in the event by his standards, reeled off the opening four frames with breaks of 57, 53, and 74.
It looked as though Hawkins might get on the scoreboard after the mid-session interval only for Higgins to pinch that one too on the black to lead 5-0.
The “Hawk” did subsequently protect against the embarrassment of a whitewash by compiling a decent run of 101.
However, that proved to be the penultimate frame as a 59 contribution from Higgins sealed the deal in the next.
The latter advances to the quarter-finals, where he’ll face Ali Carter, and Higgins must be considered as a real title contender with so many of his esteemed rivals already out.
We call Ali Carter ‘The Captain’ but John Higgins is calling his quarter final opponent ‘Denmark’!
Tonight – making his 26th consecutive Masters appearance – Higgins defeated Barry Hawkins 6-1 at Alexandra Palace #DafabetMasters pic.twitter.com/OP6LLpPthp
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) January 14, 2020
Selby, Trump, and Ding were supposed to be threats in the top half of the draw but Higgins is arguably the favourite from that section to now reach the final.
The first round will conclude on Wednesday with the remaining two matches from the last 16 to be played.
Former runner-up Kyren Wilson meets Jack Lisowski in the afternoon session before an evening bout between two-time champion Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham.