2023 PREVIEW: The Cazoo Masters…
JANUARY 2023 will see the return of the popular World Snooker Tour professional event, The Cazoo Masters at the Alexandra Palace in London…
The 2023 Cazoo Masters will commence from January 8, bringing together the top 16 players in the world rankings for one of the most eagerly awaited non-ranking tournaments on the season calendar.
Australian Neil Robertson took home the 2022 Masters title, the second of his career to date, overcoming Barry Hawkins 10-4. Robertson, who admits he is more selective over the events he plays, is sure to defend his title. The 40-year-old is the joint-second favourite to win the 2023 Masters, available at the best price of 9/2 with 888sport as of late November. This operator happens to be at the top of the pile when it comes to the most reputable bonuses for first-time snooker bettors in the UK.
The odds are likely to fluctuate in the coming weeks, especially now that the draw for the first round has been made. The draw was postponed in wait for the outcome of the UK Championship final involving Mark Allen and seasoned Chinese player Ding Junhui. Ding knew that victory over Allen would have seen his world ranking soar from 38th to 10th, making him eligible for the 2023 Masters. However, a narrow 10-7 loss to the Northern Irishman meant that compatriot Yan Bingtao would get the nod instead.
The 2023 Cazoo Masters first-round draw at first glance…
As ever, the seedings of the Masters draw is such that the top-two ranked players – Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan – cannot meet until the final. Here’s a glance at how the first round plays out.
Robertson vs Murphy
Robertson’s first task in his title defense will be to overcome the number 12 seed, Shaun Murphy. Murphy, who clinched his only World Championship title in 2005, has endured something of a barren spell in recent years. He has landed just two ranking titles since 2017, winning the 2019 China Championship and the 2020 Welsh Open.
Murphy has demonstrated his capabilities on occasion though, such as in his recent come-from-behind 6-5 win over Judd Trump at the UK Championship, which sharply underlined his prowess. Murphy is one of the more outspoken characters on the snooker scene and has also recently criticised Ronnie O’Sullivan for his approach to the sport, describing him as a poor ambassador for the game.
Mark Selby vs Zhao Xintong
Meanwhile, number three seed, Mark Selby, has one of the most fascinating ties of the bottom half of the draw. He faces Zhao Xintong, nicknamed ‘The Cyclone’, who is one of the top talents in world snooker let alone the Chinese game. At the age of 25, Xintong already has two ranking titles to his name, winning the 2021 UK Championship and the 2022 German Masters.
As for Selby, he was ranked world number-one for the first four months of this year and the four-time world champion is still a force to be reckoned with. This match-up is clearly a case of the millennial generation locking horns with snooker’s Gen Z generation.
Ronnie 0′ Sullivan vs Luca Brecel
As with most major events, the eyes of the snooker world will also be fixed firmly on ‘The Rocket’, Ronnie O’Sullivan. The Essex maestro has been drawn against world number 11, Luca Brecel in the first round of the 2023 Masters.
Brecel, aged 27, has been a professional for just over a decade now and made his inaugural appearance at a Triple Crown final in the 2021 UK Championship, losing 10-5 to Zhao Xintong. Brecel did, however, win the 2022 Championship League earlier his year against China’s Lu Ning.
As for O’Sullivan, the 46-year-old has enjoyed another successful season, landing his seventh world championship in an 18-13 victory over Judd Trump. He also reached the final of the European Masters, before being edged out by the odd frame against China’s Fan Zhengyi.
John Higgins vs Jack Lisowski
Another first-round contest that promises to be highly competitive is between sixth seed John Higgins and tenth seed Jack Lisowski. Higgins has enjoyed something of a renaissance in his career during the last 18 months, reaching no less than four ranking finals in 2021, winning one. He also reached the 2022 Tour Championship final earlier this year, losing 10-9 to Neil Robertson. The ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ comes up against 31-year-old Englishman Lisowski, who is an emerging name on the world snooker stage. He reached the semi-finals of the 2022 UK Championship and the final four of the 2022 Welsh Open.
Judd Trump vs Ryan Day
On paper, fourth-seed Judd Trump looks like he has the kindest first-round draw for the 2023 Masters. Trump comes up against 15th seed Ryan Day. Day, the 2022 British Open champion, has flattered to deceive on many occasions. Victory at the 2020-21 Shoot Out and a 2017-18 semi-final appearance at the UK Championship are among the Welshman’s most notable moments. On the flip side, Trump continues to show remarkable consistency. In 2022, he’s reached the Welsh Open final, landed the Turkish Masters, and been inched out in the World Championship final by O’Sullivan.
The remaining match-ups see Kyren Wilson do battle with Stuart Bingham, Mark Allen face last year’s finalist Barry Hawkins, while evergreen Welshman Mark Williams will meet Yan Bingtao. Williams has reached the semi-finals of the European Masters and the quarter-final of the Northern Ireland Open this season and remains a fierce competitor.
Are tickets still available for the 2023 Cazoo Masters?
Tickets for the opening day of the 2023 Masters at Alexandra Palace are now sold out for the afternoon session, although there are still some standard seating tickets available for the evening session on January 8. Afternoon sessions appear to be most popular at present, but tickets for both sessions are the same price. Standard seating tickets start from £29, while all-day tickets are also available from £45. Premium single-session and all-day tickets start from £73 and £111.50, respectively.
Luxury tickets are also available for a true ‘VIP’ experience, giving you an exclusive booth for the afternoon session or both afternoon and evening sessions. These tickets start from £266.50 and £466.50, respectively. Booking fees of 10% are applicable to all tickets.
For those who’ve never been to Alexandra Palace to watch the Masters before, it’s a good idea to check out the seating plan of the arena to ensure you get the view you want. This iconic venue is one of the most atmospheric in world snooker, and should be on the bucket list of any snooker fan.
SnookerZone has been, and it is well worth a visit. An awesome venue.
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