We are down to the quarter final stage of The Masters with the opening match in the round taking place inside Alexandra Palace on Thursday afternoon when the superstar Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Barry Hawkins.
O’Sullivan has won this title on multiple occasions and he’ll be looking to win an eighth crown on Sunday. Hawkins has made the final twice but he is yet to get his hands on the Paul Hunter Trophy. That is something he’ll be looking to change this weekend.
Ronnie O’Sullivan arrived at The Masters as the UK Championship winner but you never truly know how he is going to perform in an event these days until he has turned up and played but I think we can safely say from his opening match that he fancies the job here. I always think the telltale sign is what he shows when someone comes at him and when Ding made the maximum to pull back to 4-3, O’Sullivan found another gear and finished off in style.
The really impressive thing about the O’Sullivan win over Ding in the first round was his long game. It was pinpoint and when that is getting nailed you know he has put the work in and fancies the job regardless of what he says in interviews either side of a match. His scoring is a given and his tactical play is as well but when he is getting himself in from distance he is going to be very hard to beat over this sort of format, particularly here where the crowds are right behind him too.
The opening round was very much the same for Barry Hawkins. He looked in good touch in the early stages against Neil Robertson but then the Australian came surging back at him and you wondered what the European Masters champion would come back with and Hawkins answered the question emphatically to repel the charge of Robertson. That bodes well for him here because he is clearly going to be under pressure in this one.
The positive for Hawkins in the first round was that he scored pretty well. That is the backdrop of his game now and when he is in the balls you feel like he is going to clear up and if he can get his opponent to think that then he could find his work is a little easier. Clearly his safety game is going to need to be pinpoint in this match but he was tested in that department against Robertson and by and large he came out on top so Hawkins merits respect here.
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These two men are no strangers to each other. They have faced each other 18 times in the past with Ronnie O’Sullivan coming out on top 16 times and Barry Hawkins just twice. It is equally as one-sided in the frame count where O’Sullivan leads 138-85. This will be their second meeting at The Masters after O’Sullivan destroyed Hawkins 10-1 in the final eight years ago. This will be just their second quarter final with O’Sullivan winning their previous one and in terms of matches over the best of 11 frames the Rocket has won all five of their past encounters. History very much favours him here.
Ronnie O’Sullivan made two centuries against Ding in the first round and in that match I took him to cover a 109.5 line for his highest break and he duly delivered. He has the same line in this encounter and I think he is equally as likely to land it, if not more likely because he actually has an even more dominant record against Hawkins and if the Rocket gets out in front he might really pick up some confidence. Hawkins plays a game which suits O’Sullivan.
He’ll open the balls up and look to score himself but nobody beats O’Sullivan in that sort of an encounter when the world number one fancies the job and it is very rare he doesn’t fancy the job in this tournament. O’Sullivan looked in fantastic order in the long game department in the first round and if he can get himself in from distance then we know he is intent on clearing the table. Neil Robertson was able to nail a couple of tons against Hawkins in the previous round, both of which covered this line so I’ll take O’Sullivan to do it again.
Back R.O’Sullivan – Over 109.5 break for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with Betway