Bright future on the baize as magical Masters concludes
There were thrills, spills and everything in between this past week from inside the Alexandra Palace, as Neil Robertson – at 5/1 with bet365 – came out on top of the stacked pile to claim his second Paul Hunter Trophy.
All things bright and beautiful
In many’s eyes, snooker has had to play second-fiddle to the behemoth growth of darts over the last decade.
Matchroom Sport have done their utmost to blend sex-appeal with the rooted traditions of snooker over the past few years with mixed results, but as the Masters returned to the Alexandra Palace after a year’s hiatus – Covid-19 forced 2021’s tournament to be played inside Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena – that marriage of ethos simply worked.
We may not be going Snooker Loopy like in the 1980s, but there is still vehement interest.
From Mark Williams claiming he couldn’t feel his legs after his and John Higgins’ reception prior to their semi-final thriller, to Barry Hawkins missing his cue – pun very much intended – to walk down the tiered aisle before the final due to the noise of the sell-out crowd, the atmosphere inside the Alexandra Palace was a joy to behold.
The ‘old guard’ are slowly coming around to the bright lights and thumping music at one of the Triple Crown events, while the ‘newbies’ are picking up cues themselves and giving it a go.
The sport’s future is bright and colourful – on and off the table.
After Zhao Xintong claimed this season’s UK Championship in December, we’re two down out of the three Triple Crown events on the World Snooker Tour, as eyes begin to shift towards April’s World Championship.
The sport has taken a bashing from inside and out over the past few years, but with crowds now back inside sold-out arenas and a rich pool of talent to pick from, the snooker Gods have every right to be smiling.
Level playing field
Neil Robertson’s win on Sunday signalled the 10th different winner of a Triple Crown event over the last 13 editions, underlining the strength of the playing field currently across the World Snooker Tour.
Only Robertson, himself, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump have landed more than one of the UK Championship, Masters or the World Championship since the start of 2018, with debut winners Mark Allen, Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong making the most of this free-for-all.
Robertson was priced as the fifth-favourite for the Masters at 5/1 with bet365, with third-seed Judd Trump the favourite at 10/3, but with so many evenly matched contests across the week – as well as two 6-5 semi-finals – it’s hard to back an outright with any confidence prior to an event.
That’s what makes it exciting and you snooker heads coming back for more each time.
Next stop, the World Championships
We’re just three months away from the World Championships as Mark Selby looks forward to defending his crown inside Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
The last four editions of the Worlds have seen different winners, with just two new names on the famous trophy across the last 11.
Judd Trump leads the betting at 10/3 win bet365 to win the trophy for a second time, with four-time champion Mark Selby priced at 11/2.
Masters king Neil Robertson and six-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan is also at 11/2, with John Higgins out at 9/1.
If you fancy an in-form outsider, then Jack Lisowski at 40/1 looks nicely priced in the midfield.