2021 Masters (snooker)

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2021 Betfred Masters
2021 Betfred Masters Snooker Tournament Logo.jpg
Tournament logo
Tournament information
Dates10–17 January 2021
VenueMarshall Arena
CityMilton Keynes
CountryEngland
Organisation(s)WPBSA, World Snooker
FormatNon-ranking event
Total prize fund£725,000
Winner's share£250,000
Highest break John Higgins (SCO) (145)
Final
Champion Yan Bingtao (CHN)
Runner-up John Higgins (SCO)
Score10–8
2020

The 2021 Masters (also referred to as the 2021 Betfred Masters for sponsorship purposes) was a professional non-ranking snooker tournament that took place between 10 and 17 January 2021 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, England. It was the 47th staging of the Masters tournament, which was first held in 1975, and the second of three Triple Crown events in the 2020–21 season, following the 2020 UK Championship and preceding the 2021 World Snooker Championship. The event invited the top 16 players from the snooker world rankings to compete in a knockout tournament. It was organised by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and broadcast by the BBC and Eurosport in Europe. The tournament was played behind closed doors due to COVID-19 restrictions. Two players, world number one Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski were withdrawn from the event after testing positive for COVID-19.

The defending champion was Stuart Bingham, who defeated Ali Carter in the previous year's final by 10 frames to 8. Bingham lost 6–5 to Yan Bingtao in the semi-finals. Bingtao was one of three debutants at the event alongside Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Gary Wilson and met John Higgins in the final. Bingtao won the match 10–8 to win his first Triple Crown tournament. As the winner of the event, Yan was awarded £250,000 from the total prize pool of £750,000. The highest break of the event was a 145 made by Higgins in his quarter-final win over Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Overview[edit]

photo of Marshall Arena
The tournament was moved to the Marshall Arena days before the event.

The Masters is an invitational snooker tournament that was first held in 1975,[1] with the top 16 players from the snooker world rankings invited to participate. The 2021 Masters is the second Triple Crown event of the 2020–21 snooker season, following the 2020 UK Championship and preceding the 2021 World Snooker Championship.[2] The tournament is held between 10 and 17 January 2021.[3][4] The 16 highest-ranked players according to the world rankings after the 2020 UK Championship in December 2020 were invited to the event.[5] World number one Judd Trump and world number fourteen Jack Lisowski tested positive for COVID-19 and were forced to withdraw. Trump was replaced in the draw by Joe Perry, while Lisowski was replaced by Gary Wilson.[6] Anthony McGill, ranked 17th, would have been the first reserve player, but declined to travel to the event.[7]

The Masters was initially scheduled to be held at Alexandra Palace, London,[8] and be the first event to host an audience since the 2020 World Snooker Championship.[9] However, the event was later played without a crowd and moved to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, to comply with stricter regulations against COVID-19.[4][9][10]

The previous year's event was won by Stuart Bingham, who defeated Ali Carter in the final 10–8.[11] The draw for the tournament was made during the final of the 2020 UK Championship.[12] As defending champion Bingham was seeded first,[13] with the next seven players in the world rankings seeded and allocated fixed positions in the draw, where they met the remaining eight participants.[14] Matches are played as best-of-11 frames until the final, which is contested over a maximum of 19 frames played over two sessions.[15] The event is organised by the World Snooker Tour, a subsidiary of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, and sponsored for the first time by sports betting company Betfred.[16][17]

Prize fund[edit]

The prize fund for the event was £725,000, with the winner receiving £250,000.[18][19][20]

  • Winner: £250,000
  • Runner-up: £100,000
  • Semi-finals: £60,000
  • Quarter-finals: £30,000
  • Last 16: £15,000
  • Highest break: £15,000
  • Total: £725,000

Tournament summary[edit]

First round[edit]

Kyren Wilson playing a shot using the rest
Kyren Wilson defeated Gary Wilson in the first round and won 6–2.

The Masters began on 10 January 2021 with the first round being played as the best-of-11 frames until 13 January.[21] The 2018 Masters finalist Kyren Wilson met Gary Wilson in the opening match. Gary Wilson, world ranking 18, made his debut at the event.[22] Kyren won the opening frame of the match, before Gary won the next two frames. During the third frame, Kyren used a lighter on the top of his cue tip to burn off frayed edges.[23] Kyren won frame four with a century break before leading 4–2 after two flukes in frame six.[24] Kyren won the next two frames with a total clearance break of 136 in frame seven and a break of 65 in frame eight to win 6–2.[24] Kyren credited his play to competing against John Higgins for four days leading up to the match.[24]

David Gilbert had been drawn against the world number one, Judd Trump; however, he had been replaced by Joe Perry,[25] who came into the tournament having taken Christmas not playing, as he had not been expecting to play in the competition.[26] Gilbert won all of the first four frames of the match to lead 4–0 into the mid-session interval.[27] Gilbert also won frame five with a break of 72. Leading 5–0, Gilbert was unable to complete a whitewash, as Perry won frame six with a break of 73 and frame seven with a century break.[28] Gilbert however won the match 6–2 after a break of 54.[28]

Defending Masters champion Stuart Bingham met Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who was making his debut at the event.[29] Bingham made a break of 114 en route to taking a 5–1 lead.[29] In the seventh frame, Bingham was playing for a maximum break, but fouled trying to continue the break and allowed Un-Nooh to clear the table and win the frame. Un-Nooh also won the next two frames to trail by one, before Bingham won the match in frame ten 6–4.[29][30] Post match, Eurosport pundit Neal Foulds suggested that Un-Nooh needed to add more defensive play to his game to be able to win such matches.[31]

Ronnie O'Sullivan playing a shot
Ronnie O'Sullivan (pictured) and Ding Junhui produced 10 breaks of over 70 in their 11-frame match.

Two former winners Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams met in the fourth first round match. Leading 2–1, Murphy required the final two balls to win the next frame.[32] He fluked the pink ball before potting a similar shot on the black.[29][33] Murphy later clarified that he was "embarrassed" by the fluke, but had intentionally played the difficult shot on the black.[33] Williams tied the match at both 3–3 and 4–4 before Murphy won the final two frames to win 6–4.[32] Reigning UK champion Neil Robertson played 20-year-old Yan Bingtao.[34] Robertson took leads of 3–1 and then 5–3 including a break of 121. Yan, however, made breaks of 61 and 55 to force a deciding frame.[35] Yan played most of the colours onto the cushion in the lengthy final frame, and won 6–5. Robertson commented after the match that he couldn't "praise Yan Bingtao highly enough" for his determination during the match.[36]

Ding Junhui made breaks of 83, 75 and 73 to lead Ronnie O'Sullivan 3–0, before O'Sullivan won the next two frames including a century break.[37] Ding then took a lead of 5–3 after another century from either player.[37] Ding missed pots to win the match in frame nine, allowing O'Sullivan to win the next two frames. He then won the match in the deciding frame with a 73 break. The match was of high quality, with four centuries and a further six breaks of above 70 in the 11 frame match.[37] Steve Davis suggested that Ding had "panicked", whilst Ken Doherty said "Ding missed a trick" in not taking advantage to win the match.[37] The match between Mark Allen and John Higgins also went to a deciding frame. Higgins lead 5–3 but Allen won the next two frames. A missed brown ball allowed Higgins to make a break of 59 to win 6–5.[37]

Quarter-finals[edit]

Stuart Bingham playing a shot
Defending champion Stuart Bingham defeated Shaun Murphy 6–3

The quarter-finals were played on the 14 and 15 January.[38] The first quarter-final was played between David Gilbert and Wilson. Gilbert suffered a mis-cue allowing Wilson to win the opening frame.[39] Gilbert, however tied the match at 1–1 with a break of 58, before he cleared the table and also potted the re-spotted black to win the third frame.[39] Wilson, however tied the match at 2–2 with a break of 114.[39] The match was later tied again at both 3–3 and 4–4. After a break of 80 in the ninth frame from Wilson, Gilbert tied the match again at 5–5.[39] Gilbert won the match after a missed pot on the pink from Wilson.[39] Six-time champion Steve Davis described Gilbert as a "vastly improved player" and Wilson would rue the missed pink in the deciding frame.[40] Murphy and Bingham contested the 2015 World Snooker Championship final and met in the second quarter-final. Murphy won the first two frames before Bingham won the next two with a break of 133, and recovering from 0–58 points behind.[40] Murphy missed pots in both of the next two frames for Bingham to win the frames, but did win the seventh frame with a break of 70.[41] Bingham won the next two frames to win the match 6–3 after a 47-minute ninth frame.[41]

Yan Bingtao playing in his first Masters event drew Stephen Maguire.[42] Yan took the first two frames of the match, but lost the next three frames including a break of 102.[42] Two missed red balls from Maguire allowed Yan to win the next two frames and lead 4–3.[42] Maguire evened the scores in the next frame with a break of 137, but missed a long pot in the ninth frame to go behind again.[42] In the tenth frame, attempting a plant, Maguire fluked a separate red ball into the middle pocket and went on to win the frame to force a decider.[42][43] Yan won the final frame to win 6–5 with the highest break of his career, a 141.[43][44]

David Gilbert playing a shot
David Gilbert reached the semi-finals of the event for the second consecutive year with a 6–5 win over Kyren Wilson

The last quarter-final was between Higgins and O'Sullivan. This was the 70th professional competitive match between the two since they turned professional in 1992.[44] O'Sullivan won the opening frame with a break of 97, but Higgins responded with a 110 and 145 – the highest of the tournament – to lead 3–1.[44] O'Sullivan made two more century breaks of 125 and 103 in frames five and six to even the score at 3–3.[45] A bad break off from O'Sullivan allowed Higgins to make a 134 in the next frame, the fifth consecutive century break of the match.[45] Higgins won frame eight with a break of 88 and won the match in frame nine 6–3.[45] The five consecutive century breaks equalled the record for the Masters from Robertson and Maguire in 2009.[45] Former world champion John Parrott described Higgins' performance as "spellbound"ing, whilst Stephen Hendry was surprised that he didn't play to this quality more often.[45] Higgins suggested after the match that he "can’t play any better than that",[45] whilst O'Sullivan backed Higgins to win the tournament after the performance.[46]

Semi-finals[edit]

John Higgins playing a shot
John Higgins reached his first Masters final since 2006

Both semi-final matches were played on 16 January 2021.[38] Stuart Bingham won the opening frame of the match by only seven points before Yan made a break of 94 to equal the match at 1–1.[47] Yan also had the first chance in the next two frames but Bingham won both.[48] Yan won two of the next three frames and trailed 3–4 but won frame 8 with a score of 106–0.[47] He also took the lead in the ninth frame with a century break.[47] Bingham tied the match after a missed red from Yan.[49] Yan won the match 6–5 after a break of 65 in the deciding frame.[48] The 1997 world champion Ken Doherty commented that Yan's "composure was fantastic in that last frame",[48] whilst O'Sullivan suggested it was a "significant result for Chinese snooker".[50]

The second semi-final was contested between David Gilbert and John Higgins. Both players cited their previous meeting in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Snooker Championship, where Higgins won 17–16.[51] Gilbert won the opening frame with a break of 80 before Higgins made a 106 in frame 2.[51] The scores were also tied at 2–2 with Higgins making a clearance to win frame 4.[51] Frame five featured a break of 107 from Higgins who took a two frame lead with a break of 55 in frame six.[51] Gilbert tied the match at 4–4 after Higgins missed the final pink to win frame eight.[51] Higgins won the next two frames, however, to win the match 6–4.[52] Higgins commented after the match: "I personally think semi-finals are the worst game, you are close to being in a showpiece and David did not play great."[53]

Final[edit]

Photo of Yan Bingtao
Yan Bingtao, making his debut at the event defeated John Higgins 10–8 in the final

The final was played on 17 January as the best-of-19 frames held over two sessions and was refereed by Paul Collier.[54] Higgins had not appeared in the final of the event since he last won the event in 2006 Masters, but had also won in 1999.[55] Yan Bingtao was appearing in his first Triple Crown final. Bingtao took the opening frame of the final, with a break of 66, with Higgins winning the next.[56] Frame three featured a missed pot on the blue ball by Higgins, who won the fourth to tie the match at 2–2.[56] Higgins took the next two frames, including a break of 98, before Yan made a break of 97 in frame seven.[56] Frame eight, the final of the first session was won by Higgins to lead 5–3 with a break of 52.[57] Steve Davis referred to Yan as "naive" and that he needed a "flying start and get his tail up" to win the match in the second session.[57]

Higgins opened frame nine with a break of 67, but a clearance from Yan forced a re-spotted black. After a prolonged safety battle, Yan cut the black to trail 4–5.[58] Yan then made a break of 76 to tie the match at 5–5.[58][59] Frame 11 featured a break of 51 by Yan, before Higgins made a 74 after making a plant,[59] then a 116 in the next frame to lead by two frames again.[59] With just the final ball remaining in frame 13, Higgins attempted a double, but missed allowing Yan to win the frame. Yan also made a break of 103 in the next frame to tie the scores at 7–7.[59] When Yan won frame 15, Higgins left the arena while muttering to himself.[59] Higgins then made a break of 63 to tie the scores at 8–8.[59] A break of 64 won Yan frame 17, and he won the match in frame 18 with a break of 64.[59]

Aged 20 years old, Yan was the youngest Masters winner since O'Sullivan in 1995 26 years prior,[55][58] and the first debutant winner since Selby in 2008.[59] Yan was 50–1 odds against winning the event.[59] Higgins suggested that he thought Yan would become world champion "without a shadow of a doubt",[58] and winning the event at his age was a "brilliant achievement".[60] Yan commented "I have imagined how I would celebrate but I am very calm, even though in the last few frames I was not playing very well. But I did not give up."[58] Other players were also appreciative of Yan's play, with Davis commenting that he was "impressed with his temperament, his nerve" in defeating Higgins,[58] whilst O'Sullivan said he'd be "very surprised if he doesn’t win at least one or two world titles".[61]

Tournament draw[edit]

Numbers given show the players' seeding for the tournament. Players in bold denote match winners.[8][54][62]

First round
Best of 11 frames
Quarter-finals
Best of 11 frames
Semi-finals
Best of 11 frames
Final
Best of 19 frames
            
1  Stuart Bingham (ENG) 6
16  Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (THA) 4
1 England Stuart Bingham 6
8 England Shaun Murphy 3
8  Shaun Murphy (ENG) 6
14  Mark Williams (WAL) 4
1 England Stuart Bingham 5
12 China Yan Bingtao 6
5  Mark Selby (ENG) 3
9  Stephen Maguire (SCO) 6
9 Scotland Stephen Maguire 5
12 China Yan Bingtao 6
4  Neil Robertson (AUS) 5
12  Yan Bingtao (CHN) 6
12 China Yan Bingtao 10
7 Scotland John Higgins 8
 Joe Perry (ENG) 2
13  David Gilbert (ENG) 6
13 England David Gilbert 6
6 England Kyren Wilson 5
6  Kyren Wilson (ENG) 6
 Gary Wilson (ENG) 2
13 England David Gilbert 4
7 Scotland John Higgins 6
7  John Higgins (SCO) 6
10  Mark Allen (NIR) 5
7 Scotland John Higgins 6
2 England Ronnie O'Sullivan 3
2  Ronnie O'Sullivan (ENG) 6
11  Ding Junhui (CHN) 5

Final[edit]

Final: Best of 19 frames. Referee: Paul Collier
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes, England, 17 January 2021
Yan Bingtao (12)
 China
10–8 John Higgins (7)
 Scotland
Afternoon: 99–0 (66), 16–73, 72–66, 0–71 (63), 0–98 (98), 28–73, 97–48 (97), 44–70 (53)
Evening: 74–67 (59, 67), 76–31 (76), 51–74 (74), 0–127 (116), 73–68, 110–0 (103), 73–64 (55, 50), 5–68 (63), 74–12 (70), 99–31 (64)
103 Highest break 116
1 Century breaks 1
8 50+ breaks 8

Century breaks[edit]

There were 30 century breaks made during the tournament, the highest was a 145 made by John Higgins in his quarter-final match with Ronnie O'Sullivan.[63]

Broadcasting[edit]

The tournament was broadcast live in the United Kingdom by BBC Sport, as well as by Eurosport in Europe.[38][64] Worldwide, the event was covered by China Central Television and Superstars Online in China and Sky Sport in New Zealand.[64] The event was simulcast in Hong Kong by Now TV with additional commentary; DAZN covered the event across Canada, Brazil and the United States.[64] In all other territories, the event was streamed by Matchroom Sport.[64]

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External links[edit]