As the defending Masters champion and hot favourite for an eighth title starts his bid, Paul Krishnamurty says Ronnie O'Sullivan is banker material to maintain recent dominance over Marco Fu...
"Whereas Marco was arguably the world's most in-form player 12 months ago, this season's form figures are grim..At 1.3, Ronnie is as close to banker material as you'll find at this level."
With his nearest rival out already, the red-hot Masters favourite is getting ever shorter in the betting before even hitting a shot. Ronnie O'Sullivan is down to just 3.0 to win this title for an eighth time and starts out against a player who hasn't beaten him for nine years.
It's slightly odd how the dynamics between O'Sullivan and Marco Fu have changed over their careers. Earlier, the Hong Kong man enjoyed one of the best records of anyone against the Rocket, despite never being truly settled inside the top-16. Yet since his standard improved markedly with age, Fu has struggled against him. Perhaps that can also be explained by Ronnie's much improved attitude and resilience?
Fu did give him two tough matches in last season's majors - 6-4 here and 6-5 at the UK. Much has changed in the formbook since, though. Whereas Marco was arguably the world's most in-form player 12 months ago, this season's form figures are grim.
Meanwhile Ronnie is enjoying his most prolific spell in years and, at 1.3, is as close to banker material as you'll find at this level and the first leg of a double with Kyren Wilson to win the evening match. I also like 7/4 on him hitting more than one century among our wide range of side markets. Given the good scoring conditions so far, that target looks well within range for the game's most prolific centurion.
In terms of being the most out-of-form player in this field, Fu has one rival in Barry Hawkins, about whom very similar comments apply. 'The Hawk' was for years a capable, yet limited, member of the top-32 who would intermittently and temporarily break into the elite. Belatedly he improved out of all recognition and was one of the men to beat throughout 2016-17.
It is that pedigree that makes him favourite against Wilson, whose two ranking final appearances represent easily the best standard either can boast this term. Whilst this is a tricky match that could easily go to the wire, it's hard to support Hawkins at odds-on given his form issues. Barry has never had much of a 'B game'.
As explained in my Masters preview, Wilson is an outright pick. He's played some great stuff at the Crucible so is fancied to make a bigger impact on his second Alexandra Palace appearance.
Masters 2018 Profit/Loss
Stakes: 19 units
Returns: 25.05 units
P/L: +6.05 units