The Masters 2020 – Day 3

The “curse” is over… in the sixt match of round one at Ally Pally, the top seed won, as John Higgins beat Barry Hawkins. Reanne Evans was in the Eurosport studio and very sensibly had stated that there are no “shocks” at the Masters; those are the best 16 players in the World and anybody can beat anybody. There are results that go against most expectations but no shocks.

One of those “less expected” results came in the first match of the day, as Shaun Murphy beat Judd Trump by 6-3, despite Judd scoring three centuries. But, as they say, a century wins you just one frame, and Shaun was the better match player out there. Shaun used to say that he has no safety game, but this isn’t the case anymore. Since he’s moved to Dublin, he’s practicing with Fergal O’Brien and it shows. Judd’s attacking safeties yesterday were a bit sloppy, and more “attacking” than “safe” which is not something one can afford against a potter of Shaun’s ability.  Shaun took advantage and progressively took control of the match. You could see the doubts creep in Judds mind, and with them, the mistakes crept in his game as well.

Shaun Murphy 6-3 Judd Trump (WST report)

Judd Trump’s hopes of defending his Dafabet Masters title were dashed in the first round at Alexandra Palace as he lost 6-3 to Shaun Murphy.

So far, each of the first five matches at snooker’s biggest invitation event have been won by the lower ranked player, and Trump follows Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Mark Allen as early casualties. Murphy goes through to face Joe Perry in the quarter-finals on Thursday afternoon.

Today’s result is hardly a shock as Murphy himself is a Triple Crown winner and has a title under his belt this season having won the China Championship.

But it’s a significant blow to Trump’s top-dog status. The world number one enjoyed the best year of his career in 2019, winning the Masters, the World Championship and four other titles. He started 2020 with the perfect warm-up by winning a Championship League group last week, but Murphy looked the sharper player in the closing stages today.

Trump took the opening frame with a break of 128 then Murphy dominated the second and made a 71 to lead 2-1. Two more centuries from Trump, 116 and 119, put him 3-2 up.

Bristol’s Trump had first chance in frame six and made 47, then Murphy made a 77 clearance which shifted the momentum. A 52 clearance in the next gave world number ten Murphy the lead, and in frame eight he converted a superb long pot on the penultimate red and made 41 to lead 5-3. Runs of 34 and 47 in frame nine were enough to give him victory.

“Judd is a joy to watch and he made three great centuries early on,” said 37-year-old Murphy. “But those only give you one frame and getting to six first is the only statistic that matters. My safety was decent, I fed off his mistakes and made some vital clearances.

“I first came to this tournament at Wembley Conference Centre as a 12-year-old and sat there with my big bag of M&Ms wondering if I would ever get to play in it. Since my first time I have taken to it well. My wife says I’m the biggest show-off she knows and snooker’s just my outlet. I’m never happier than when I’m out there in front of everyone.”

Trump said: “I’m very disappointed although I don’t feel I played that badly. Shaun is a class player and he held himself together well. The sixth frame was important because if I had gone 4-2 up I would have been full of confidence.”

At the start of the evening match, neither player looked sharp. In his pre-match interview with Rachel (from ES) Barry Hawkins had appeared very nervous and even apprehensive of the match to come. He asmitted that he’s going through a period where he feels demotivated, and can’t bring himself to put the required work in. It showed. He was dreadful for most of the match. The balls went all over the place, same as you can see in clubs when amateurs have a knock. John, facing an opponent who was struggling badly and playing terrible, grew in confidence and he started playing  better and better.. Pride got Barry fighting towards the end, and he scored the only century of the match, but it was too little, too late. It’s not the first time that Barry goes through a bad spell. Last time, it transpired that he was facing serious off-the-table family related problems. Hopefully all will be well gain soon.

John Higgins 6-1 Barry Hawkins (WST report)

John Higgins swept aside Barry Hawkins 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London.

The Wizard of Wishaw produced sharp display, freezing out his opponent, who struggled apart from a solitary century in the sixth frame. The result sees Higgins enhance his head-to-head record against Hawkins and he now leads 8-3 in meetings on the professional circuit.

Scotland’s Higgins is competing in his 26th consecutive Masters and has won the title on two occasions. However, the four-time World Champion hasn’t lifted the trophy at this event since his epic 10-9 final victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2006.

Higgins will see this as an opportunity to claim a first Masters win in 14 years, with all previous matches this week going against the player seeded in the top eight. So far Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen and Judd Trump have all fallen by the wayside.

This evening, breaks of 57, 53 and 74 helped Higgins to claim the opening three frames, before he took a tight fourth to lead 4-0 at the mid-session.

When they returned Higgins had established a 62-0 advantage in frame five. Hawkins battled back into the frame thanks to a run of 58, but he failed to get good position on the final black. He spurned two opportunities, before Higgins stepped in with a fine long range effort to lead 5-0.

Hawkins got a frame on the board with a century break of 101, but it was just a consolation with Higgins closing out the 6-1 win thanks to a break of 58. Next up Higgins face Ali Carter for a place in the semi-finals.

“To beat Barry 6-1 is brilliant. He didn’t really turn up tonight though and made it pretty easy for me. We have all been there and especially in an arena like that. Everything seems to get on top of you,” said 44-year-old Higgins.”It was a good atmosphere and more rowdy with everyone shouting for Barry to come back, what an arena it is to play in. It is absolutely fantastic and definitely rivals the Crucible one-table setup.

“I think everyone left in the tournament will feel they are in with a good chance of winning it. Being honest, at the start of the tournament people would have been tipping the likes of Ding, Judd Trump and Neil Robertson. With all the first five favourites going out it is incredible.

“It is always tough playing Ali. He is a great cueist and had a good win over Mark Selby. I’m calling him Denmark because of what happened with them getting a late call up to Euro 92 and winning it. He has nothing to lose and when that happens he is a really dangerous player.”

Hawkins said: “I don’t think I have been knuckling down enough. It is a bit of a vicious circle, because I know I need to get motivated to do well in these tournaments, but it isn’t there at the moment. When I go out there I just have no confidence at all because I haven’t worked hard enough.

“I need to have a good long look at myself. If I want to start doing well again and performing like a top 16 player I need to start getting more dedicated and putting the hours in.”


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