The Masters final
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The Masters Final: Stuart Bingham vs Ali Carter

The Masters final will be contested between a couple of Englishmen on Sunday at the Alexandra Palace in London.

Stuart Bingham will face Ali Carter in a title decider that few, if any, would have predicted at the outset of the tournament last week.

Bingham ended the run of debutant David Gilbert in the last four with a 6-2 victory, several hours after Carter denied Shaun Murphy with a 6-3 scoreline.

Both cueists will feature in the Masters final for the first time in their careers at the ages of 43 and 40 respectively.

It’s an astounding occurrence given the high-quality opposition they have had to face, not to mention their past records in the prestigious invitational event.

With twenty appearances between them before the 2020 edition, Bingham and Carter had only progressed beyond the opening hurdle three times.

As it is, the duo vies for an elusive Triple Crown title, a lucrative champion’s cheque worth £250,000, and the coveted Paul Hunter Trophy.

Bingham knows what it takes to win something of this magnitude, memorably claiming the World Championship honours in 2015.

For Carter, the “Captain” is gunning for a maiden triumph at this level, and there are many who believe destiny is playing a part in his amazing run.

Carter shouldn’t have even been in this year’s Masters as, ranked 17th in the world and with a field that is usually restricted to only the top 16, the four-time ranking event winner only gained an invite as a result of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision to not enter.

Ironically, Carter would become the first player since O’Sullivan in 2014 to win the Masters without being ranked in the elite bracket.

O’Sullivan was 24th in the pecking order at the time but qualified as the reigning world champion.

The two-time Crucible runner-up divides opinion as he is generally lauded for his recovery from long-term health issues, but widely criticised for his overall attitude and demeanour, especially around the table.

It didn’t help matters when he hastily questioned a referee’s decision during his quarter-final defeat of John Higgins, resulting in the official overturning what was a correct initial call of a foul.

Carter, then, will likely be the second favourite with the majority of fans and that is something that is mirrored with the bookies too.

Over the last five or six years it has been Bingham who has consistently been nearer the higher echelons of the sport and success in the Masters for “Ballrun”, although somewhat unexpected this year, would not necessarily be a huge surprise when the dust settles.

That kind of sentiment is probably reflected in the pair’s head-to-head record with one another.

While Bingham boasts only a narrow 9-8 advantage from their prior battles overall, the former world number two has actually triumphed in their last six meetings, dating back to 2016.

Carter, though, has looked a determined force since beating three-time champion Mark Selby in the last 16.

There hasn’t been a Masters final that has went the distance for ten years, but this fixture has the hallmark of one that could finish 10-9 to either player.

It will be interesting to see whether either protagonist, or indeed both, can rise to the occasion, or if it will materialise to be a slugfest between a couple of nervy competitors.

Following an event that has produced a disappointingly average standard of snooker throughout, the latter seems more likely, but who knows?

Either way, against all odds either Stuart Bingham or Ali Carter will be accepting the plaudits as the Masters champion on Sunday night at the Ally Pally.

Live coverage of the Masters final is on the BBC and Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)

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