The Masters is famously defined as the classiest event of the year. The one time the top 16 ranked players fill the last 16 places. It always produces an elite winner.
Both finalists have defied the formbook
That would explain why nobody predicted this final. If you did, award yourself a medal, settle back and enjoy. For those of us that follow formbooks, the last week has been very hard work. While certainly entertaining, the snooker has not lived up to expectations.
With the greatest respect to Stuart Bingham and Ali Carter, they are lesser members of the top-16. Both have terrible Masters records prior to this year. Carter is only here because Ronnie O'Sullivan withdrew.
If you believe in such things, you might think Ali has his name on the title. 'The Captain' has certainly taken advantage of his good fortune, improving on a poor season with excellent wins over three superior opponents.
Bingham dominated their recent encounters
On paper, beating Bingham would be less of an upset than Ali's victories over Selby, Higgins and Murphy. It would, however, involve a complete turnaround of recent dynamics between the pair. Bingham won their last five encounters, by an aggregate of 25-6 in frames.
Longer-term, the head-to-head is tied 8-8. That is probably a fairer guide, given that these two Essex boys go way, way back. The betting points towards a very close match - Over 16.5 Frames is a prohibitive 4/6.
Carter's record in finals is a worry
I'm not expecting a particularly high standard. Ali's record in finals is pretty poor. His four ranking wins all came over inferior opposition. Bingham's record is better, if nothing special. On his one performance in a major final, he delivered.
Nothing would surprise me today but preference must be for Bingham. I regard him the superior, more reliable player overall. He's played better than his results this season and it feels like he's overdue a title.
Plus after yesterday, I must stress the importance of head-to-head. David Gilbert went in boasting the best form of anyone, yet capitulated for the 11th straight time to Bingham.
Given Bingham's recent dominance over this old rival, I wouldn't bet against more of the same. Take evens he wins by more than one frame.
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