Dafabet Masters 2016: Round One Review

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Four days down at the Alexandra Palace and we now know the quarter-final line-up at the 2016 Dafabet Masters, with seven of the top eight seeds having made it through the opening round.

The exception to that pattern is 11th seed Mark Allen, who came out on top against defending champion Shaun Murphy in a match that will be remembered for Murphy losing its sixth frame under the ‘three misses’ rule.

That talking point aside however, Allen played well and made two centuries, despite having taken a 10 day break over the Christmas period that by his own admission left him feeling ‘terrible’ when he resumed practice last Monday.

Next up for him will be a familiar opponent in Barry Hawkins, the pair having twice gone deep over the best of 25 frames matches at the Crucible Theatre, most recently last year when Hawkins came out on top. Earlier this week Barry was able to see off friend Joe Perry in his opening match and is perhaps benefiting from closer management of his playing schedule this season.

Elsewhere, former Masters champions Mark Selby and Neil Robertson wasted little time in coming through their opening matches, each winning 6-0 against Ricky Walden and an off-colour Marco Fu respectively.

Selby, perhaps strangely for a world number one, came into this tournament somewhat under the radar despite semi-final appearances at the International Championship and Betway UK Championship this season, but declared himself extremely happy with his form following a barrage of big breaks against Walden.

Next up for the Jester will be a clash with five-time former champion Ronnie O’Sullivan later this afternoon in what for many was the most anticipated potential quarter-final match prior to the start of the tournament. Certainly the pair have history here, having previously met in three Masters finals (2-1 O’Sullivan), as well as a string of other high profile matches and it will be fascinating to see how the contest unfolds.

Neil Robertson meanwhile will face Judd Trump, in a repeat of their semi-final clash here four years ago won by the Australian en route to the title. Robertson looked strong during a surprisingly comfortable victory against Marco Fu (who we later learned had been struck down with a virus the previous night), while Trump survived a comeback from Stephen Maguire to win an entertaining match 6-4.

Another Scot in action this week was John Higgins and with three century breaks on his way to a 6-4 victory against this week’s sole Masters debutant Liang Wenbo, he clearly marked himelf out as a legitimate contender this week. He spoke after his match of just being happy to be feeling confident in his game following a difficult few years and it showed in his performance.

Higgins will now meet Stuart Bingham in his the quarter-finals, who has had a few days off since recording only his second ever Masters victory back on the opening day against the struggling Ding Junhui. Certainly on the evidence of their first round performances, Higgins will be favourite to progress but Bingham looks to perhaps be turning a corner after a patchy first half of the season and will be looking to record his best victory of the season against the Scot on Friday.

The pair last met at the Masters in 2014, Higgins running out a 6-2 winner on that occasion.

To view the tournament schedule for the remaining four days in London, please click here.