Photos courtesy of Monique Limbos. All results from the Dafabet Masters can be found here.
UK Champion and World No.1 Neil Robertson's match against Mark Allen was one of the most anticipated ties in the first round of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace. The pair had met every year for the past four years in the tournament and everyone was expecting another close match.
Antrim's Allen got the match off to a superb start with a fantastic clearance of 114. Frames were then shared between the two for it go 2-2 at the interval. A crucial 38 clearance from The Pistol got him frame five before 2012 Masters Champion Robertson responded in emphatic style with his 66th century break of the season, a classy 101.
World No.1 Neil Robertson made his 66th century break of the season, a 101.
The pace of the match slightly slowed down after that, with Allen's breaks 52 and 65 helping him to a 5-4 lead, one away from the next round. He then had chances in the next frame to wrap up victory but he missed crucial pots on red and black to leave the Australian in to force a decider.
Both Allen and Robertson had chances in the balls but could only manage 13 and 30 respectively. A safety error cost the double World Open champion dearly as Robertson made an immense break of 59 to win a third match against Allen at the Masters, 6-5. He next plays Stephe Maguire on Friday evening.
"It was a huge relief to come through that match, it was always looking like it was heading towards a decider," said 2010 World Champion Robertson. "The last frame was a topsy-turvy one, one minute I looked certain to win and then Mark did. It's a huge boost of confidence to have come through it."
Ricky Walden also had a deciding frame, the fourth of the tournament so far, in the final match of the opening round against Barry Hawkins. At the World Championship last season, it was the Hawk who won their match in the semifinals at the Crucible, and the man from Chester was looking for some manner of revenge.
Hawkins looked to be soaring to a comfortable victory in the opening stages of the match, showing his consistency by making breaks of 85,57,132 and 112 on route to a 4-1 lead. Walden then responded in style with a run of 100 himself to peg one back, but Hawkins made a 59 himself to put himself on the cusp of victory at 5-2.
Two-times ranking event winner Walden made a break of 73 to win frame eight, won frame nine on a respotted black after a poor safety from Hawkins, and then got the better of his faltering opponent once again in a tense 53-minute tenth frame to bring another match to a deciding frame.
A determined Ricky Walden recovered from 5-2 behind to force the deciding frame.
Both players had several chances in the balls and then tricky pots in which to take control of the decider, but it was Walden who made a crucial 31 break after Hawkins missed to complete the comeback, one of the best The Masters has ever seen, and progress through a 6-5 winner.
"It was a hard match," said the former Shanghai & Wuxi Champion. "Barry was the better player for most of the time, but I stuck in there and took my chances when they came to me. Thankfully it went my way in the end."
Walden is rewarded with not only his first Masters quarterfinals appearance of his career, but also a thrilling match in prospect against the World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan on Friday afternoon, a repeat of their 2008 Shanghai Masters final clash where Walden won his first ranking title.
"I'll be trying my hardest against Ronnie, it's not going to be an easy match. I will need to definitely play better than I did tonight. He will have the majority of the support from the crowd but I will embrace the atmosphere and enjoy every minute of it."
Here is the complete quarterfinals line-up at the Dafabet Masters:
Mark Selby v John Higgins
Marco Fu v Shaun Murphy
Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire
Ricky Walden v Ronnie O'Sullivan.
For regular scores and news updates throughout the Dafabet Masters, follow Maximum Snooker on Twitter.
Article by Stephen Kent.