Kicking off our daily tips series, Paul Krishnamurty previews Sunday's pair of hastily re-arranged matches...
"Trump's withdrawal presents a golden opportunity for Kyren, dramatically easing a path to the semis."
Trump and Lisowski out after Covid diagnosis
Major snooker events very frequently see big shocks on the opening day but this year we didn't even have to wait that long. Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski have both been forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid.
Terrible news for my outright staking plan, in which Judd was a nine unit selection. It also meant this column needed completely re-writing. We will never know if Trump would have won 6-3 or Lisowski hit a ton.
The two very fortunate recipients of a last-minute call up are Joe Perry and Gary Wilson. In the latter's case, this will be his Masters debut.
Last year's renewal taught us never to write off the importance of such unexpected bonuses. Ali Carter got in late when Ronnie O'Sullivan withdrew and subsequently turned around an absymal tournament record to reach the final.
Gilbert preferred in tight clash
Perry and Gilbert open proceedings in what looks a very tight match. Neither has achieved much this term - a sole quarter-final appearance and few notable victories. That makes both big outsiders for the title but, to be fair, both have some recent tournament pedigree.
Gilbert was outstanding for the first two rounds on last year's debut. That reflected his general standard at the time and, if returning to it, I'd make him a certainty here.
Perry has won three of his last four opening Masters matches and reached the 2017 final. He also leads their head-to-head 7-5.
Could Perry arrive cold?
Nothing would really surprise but I'll take Gilbert for a couple of reasons. His overall standard has been superior over a longer recent time-frame. Secondly, he was surely well tuned up for a big match against Trump whereas Perry arrives cold and possibly rusty after the Christmas break.
Facing his namesake, Gary Wilson's Masters debut could be something of a baptism of fire. He didn't play well at the Championship League and has been struggling. Whereas Kyren is the most overdue tournament winner out there.
Kyren well ahead on recent form
Trump's withdrawal presents a golden opportunity for Kyren, dramatically easing a path to the semis. I expect him to take it. He's become admirably consistent and generally only losing to either superior players or very good performances.
It wouldn't shock me were Gary to turn up with his A-game, playing pressure-free having already enjoyed a big, unexpected result. He's not short of talent and has majors pedigree having reached the 2019 world semis.
However there isn't much recent evidence to support that theory and Gary has always been a streaky type. One to oppose when out of nick. Take even money on Kyren winning by three or better via the handicap.
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