Hossein Vafaei is looking forward to his Masters debut at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday.
Vafaei will become the first player from Iran to compete in the prestigious invitational event in London.
The 28 year-old only learned about his participation in the tournament a few days ago after the revelation of Zhao Xintong’s suspension amid an ongoing match-fixing investigation.
- CLICK HERE: Former UK champion Zhao Xintong suspended
Last year’s Snoot Shoot Out champion will look to seize his unexpected opportunity when he takes on three-time Masters champion Mark Selby on the first evening of the competition.
The former world amateur champion is developing a reputation as a big-time competitor, but it’s unlikely he will have previously experienced an atmosphere quite like the one generated at the Ally Pally.
Vafaei does boast a good record against the Jester, though, having beaten him the last two times they’ve faced each other at the 2021 and 2022 UK Championships.
“It’s such a big achievement for me to compete and play in the Masters,” Hossein Vafaei told the World Snooker Tour on the eve of the 49th Masters.
“It’s an historical venue, there’s lots of history behind this venue – it’s every player’s dream to come and play in the Alexandra Palace.”
“It’s great for me to play in the Masters. It’s a little bit fortunate because of the suspension for Zhao Xintong, but it’s okay.
“I was the next player in the line to compete. I had a chance to come directly, but I promise for the next time I’ll play directly (from the top 16).
“As a snooker player, the Masters is one of those tournaments you really want to play in. For every snooker player, when they are young, this is one of their dreams.
“That means they’ve done it, they’ve become top players. But you need to show the good performance as well.
“This puts lots of pressure behind the players, so that’s why the Masters is one of the most exciting tournaments for the fans as well.
“I was shocked, I was over the moon when they told me ‘you’re going to play in the Masters because you’re the next in the line.’
“I checked the news and I saw them confirm it. I was so happy, but what happened to our sport, I wasn’t happy for that. I was surprised actually.
“All I can say is I’ll try my best to play well and make my people and snooker lovers happy, and make myself happy as well. As soon as I’m happy, I’m dangerous for any tournament.
“Mark Selby in any day in any tournament, if you beat him, it’s ‘well done to you.’ Because Mark Selby is so tough.
“Those players who play against him, they understand what I’m saying. He’s one of the top fighters in our sport.
“It’s very tough to beat him in any tournament, and I’m looking forward to it.
“Hopefully, the Alexandra Palace is going to be the great place for me to do the hat-trick and win the third match in a row against Mark Selby.”
Earlier on day one, defending champion Neil Robertson will launch the week’s action against Shaun Murphy.
The clash represents a repeat of the 2012 and 2015 Masters finals, in which the pair won one title apiece at the other’s expense.
Featured photo credit: WST