The 2024 MrQ Masters got under way on Sunday, with the likes of reigning champion Judd Trump and world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan in the draw.
The first piece of silverware of the new calendar year will be claimed next Sunday at the Alexandra Palace in London.
World champion Luca Brecel, Mark Allen, Mark Selby, and Neil Robertson are among the others competing for the Paul Hunter Trophy.
The 50th edition of the prestigious invitational will also feature the likes of former champions John Higgins, Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy, and Ding Junhui.
Prize, history, and format
An annual fixture on the snooker schedule since 1975, the Masters is the second oldest Main Tour event with 2024 representing the 50th edition.
As a result, it carries a huge amount of prestige that is magnified by its status as an invitational, normally granting participation to only those ranked inside the world’s top 16 on the official rankings list.
The roll of honour acts as a who’s who of the sport’s greatest protagonists, from its inaugural winner John Spencer to its most recent in Trump.
The likes of Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Paul Hunter, Cliff Thorburn, and Alex Higgins have enjoyed Masters success too.
There are nine former champions performing in the 2024 Masters schedule, with O’Sullivan bidding to claim a record-extending eighth crown.
Selby, Higgins, Williams, Robertson, and Trump are the other multi-time winners competing again this year.
The Masters trophy is generally considered the biggest and most important to fight for other than the World Championship itself.
A tried and tested format will see the first three rounds contested over eleven frames before the best-of-19 final next Sunday, where the Paul Hunter Trophy and a whopping £250,000 will be on offer for the champion.
How to watch the 2024 Masters
The full 2024 Masters schedule will be broadcast live on the BBC and Eurosport.
There are various other broadcasters around the world providing coverage of the Masters schedule, which can be viewed on the WST website by clicking here.
For all other territories, the action can be followed on the Matchroom.Live streaming service via a subscription.
– draw, live scores, results –
Last 16 (bo11)
Judd Trump 6-5 Kyren Wilson
Mark Williams 4-6 Ali Carter
Mark Selby 6-1 Robert Milkins
Mark Allen 6-5 John Higgins
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Ding Junhui
Neil Robertson 3-6 Barry Hawkins
Shaun Murphy 6-2 Zhang Anda
Luca Brecel 2-6 Jack Lisowski
Judd Trump 5-6 Ali Carter
Mark Selby 5-6 Mark Allen
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Barry Hawkins
Shaun Murphy 6-3 Jack Lisowski
Ali Carter 6-3 Mark Allen
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Shaun Murphy
Ali Carter 7-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan
2024 Masters first-round preview
Judd Trump (1) vs Kyren Wilson (9)
Mark Williams (8) vs Ali Carter (11)
Both of last year’s finalists feature in the top quarter of the 2024 Masters draw.
Judd Trump beat Mark Williams 10-8 to capture the crown for the second time twelve months ago.
If they negotiate their initial hurdles, the pair would clash again in the quarter-finals this time around.
Trump’s defence begins with a match against Kyren Wilson, who has generally struggled for top form this season.
While Trump already has three pieces of silverware this term from five final appearances, Wilson’s best return was a solitary quarter-final run at the European Masters.
The head-to-head also reads favourably for Trump, who beat Wilson 6-1 the last time they crossed paths at the Ally Pally a year ago.
Reigning British Open champion Williams, meanwhile, faces reigning German Masters champion Ali Carter.
The latter is back in the Masters field for the first time since 2020, when he reached the final only to be denied glory by Stuart Bingham.
Williams is a two-time former Masters champion who boasts a 20-16 win-loss record against Carter from all competitions.
Mark Selby (5) vs Robert Milkins (14)
Mark Allen (4) vs John Higgins (10)
Three more former Masters champions are involved in the top half of the draw in 2024.
Three-time winner Mark Selby will entertain Robert Milkins, while Mark Allen has drawn John Higgins.
After a promising start to the 2023/24 campaign where he reached the last four of the European Masters and the final of the British Open, things have gone a little quiet for Selby.
However, the Leicester man will be a strong favourite against an opponent in Milkins who has struggled badly this term to replicate his form from early-2023.
Milkins beat Selby last year en route to capturing the Welsh Open title, but the 47 year-old only has four victories over his fellow Englishman from 18 overall encounters.
Higgins, the champion in 1999 and 2006, challenges 2018 winner Allen in the other match in this section.
The former has produced some strong displays recently without really gaining much reward, frequently getting eliminated in the semi-finals of tournaments.
Allen’s brief quiet period on the circuit ended towards the end of 2023 with triumphs in both the Champion of Champions and the Snooker Shoot Out.
This clash will represent the sixth Masters meeting between Allen and Higgins, and the scoreline reads 4-1 in favour of the Northern Irishman.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) vs Ding Junhui (12)
Neil Robertson (6) vs Barry Hawkins (15)
Moving into the bottom half of the 2024 Masters draw, there are once again three former champions featuring in the third quarter.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui meet again only a month after their showdown for silverware at the UK Championship in York.
O’Sullivan prevailed on that day to capture a record-extending eighth UK crown, and he’ll be looking to reach that number of Masters titles next week in London.
Ding, the Masters champion in 2011, returns to the competition for the first time since 2021 after rejoining the top 16 in the world rankings.
Barring a few notable exceptions, the Chinese competitor has generally struggled against O’Sullivan in the past and has lost all five prior Masters battles with the Rocket.
The other fixture in this bracket sees two-time winner Neil Robertson face former runner-up Barry Hawkins.
Robertson has had a glittering career and is widely considered to be one of the best players of his generation.
But the Australian has been on arguably the worst run of form of his career, and Hawkins is probably the favourite based on recent results.
The European Masters champion has lost his last four outings with Robertson but will rarely get a better opportunity to play the Melbourne man.
That being said, Robertson took a long overdue break back home over the holiday season, so it will be interesting to see if he can come back refreshed and reinvigorated.
Shaun Murphy (7) vs Zhang Anda (13)
Luca Brecel (2) vs Jack Lisowski (16)
World champion Luca Brecel is the second seed and has been drawn in the fourth quarter against Jack Lisowski.
Brecel has been disappointing since his scintillating string of performances in Sheffield last April and May.
Against Lisowski, the Belgian Bullet comes up against a player who is remarkably still searching for a maiden title on the World Snooker Tour.
The pair are prone to producing unpredictable performances, and with this being the first match of the tournament, it could be a difficult one to predict.
Lisowski boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record from all competitions, but Brecel won their last tie at the 2023 Players Championship.
The winner will take on either 2015 champion Shaun Murphy or Zhang Anda, who is the only debutant in the 2024 Masters draw.
Since winning the ranking event version of the Championship League in July, it has been a dreadful season for Murphy with several early exits in events.
Zhang, by contrast, is enjoying the best spell of his career, with his unexpected appearance in the English Open final quickly followed by an outstanding triumph at the International Championship.
Murphy and Zhang have met only four times previously, with the Magician emerging successfully on three occasions.
Featured photo credit: WST