Perry the value at Ally Pally
Jeff Anderson enjoyed a scintillating 2013 and he thinks Joe Perry can kick start a good 2014 in The Masters.
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Jeff tipped Ali Carter to win the 2013 German Masters at 25/1 as well as selection Ronnie O'Sullivan to win the World Championship at 13/2 which was the headline tip in a preview which realised 32 points of profit. Now Jeff, turns his attention to The Dafabet Masters.
Masters Snooker gets underway on Sunday from Alexandra Palace in North London. World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan heads the market with defending champion Mark Selby around 6/1.
Joe Perry stands out as the real value in the draw. The Wisbech player has been a professional since 1991 and is currently playing the best snooker of his career which is remarkable given the improved standard of play on the tour. Perry has risen five places to 15th in the current world rankings and this week won Group Two of Championship League Snooker against a really strong field - winning eight out of nine matches along the way and he said afterwards that it will help him go to the Masters with real confidence.
He opens against Stephen Maguire who took some time off at the start of this season and hasn't yet regained the level of form to enable him to compete. So we'll back Perry to prevail and have a speculative each-way punt at the generous outright 66/1 as well as a saver on him to win quarter three at 6/1.
In the first quarter Selby opens against Mark Davis and the Jester showed some form in the UK Championship, losing in the final to Neil Robertson. But he doesn't now seem capable or confident of steamrollering an opponent - preferring instead to use his methodical approach and acute understanding of the variables of the game to work out the best shot for nothing.
This can disrupt an opponent's rhythm which is why he is involved in more scrappy frames and long matches than any other top sixteen player; although there's no reason why he should change because it clearly works for him. But we'll discount Selby, simply because there are many players coming into this tournament in very good form.
Judd Trump opens against Marco Fu and is at risk of losing in the opening round. Trump hasn't managed to sustain his form of the last three seasons - in the five major ranking events of this campaign he entered, he has only made the last 16 once.
Also he's short of recent success on the big stage so we'll take a punt on Fu who, this season, triumphed in the Australian Goldfields Open and was runner-up in the International Championship in China. We can ignore his loss to amateur Mitchell Travis in the opening round of the UK last month. He is worth a bet and, also, we'll have a small each-way saver outright at 33/1.
Ding Junhui has won three ranking titles so far this season which reflects his current form and he isn't finished yet. He now looks relaxed around tournaments and can now even play at his best in China whereas before he felt the pressure too acutely to perform. He opens in the second quarter against the new slimline Shaun Murphy and the 7/1 for Ding outright should be taken.
O'Sullivan has a great record in this tournament - in the last ten years he has lifted the title three times and lost 10-9 in the final three times too. He didn't enter last year. He plays Rob Milkins in the first round and the venue is just a 30 minute drive from his Chigwell home which means that he can go home during the tournament which will help him.
But I'm not sure he is value. His focus and commitment this season have largely been exemplary but the snooker landscape has changed. Selby and Robertson at the top of their game don't fear the Rocket at all which does negate the Ronnie factor somewhat.
Quite simply, O'Sulllivan's best usually used to be good enough to win but with the plethora of tournaments and consequently the higher standard of play, this now means his best is no longer a guarantee of success.