The Masters will start in mouth-watering fashion in January with defending champion Ding Junhui facing four times champion Ronnie O’Sullivan at the tournament’s new home, Alexandra Palace.
The pair famously met in the final at Wembley Arena in 2007, where O’Sullivan’s superb performance delivered a severe mental blow to Ding’s confidence.
But that was all forgotten last season as he became the first non-British player for 25 years to win the game’s most prestigious invitation title.
His 10-4 victory over Marco Fu in the all Asian final brought the curtain down on the Wembley era of the Masters. The Ally Pally is a bigger venue and, crucially, the event remains in London.
Other interesting first round matches include Neil Robertson v Mark Allen, John Higgins v Matthew Stevens and Shaun Murphy v Martin Gould, the only debutant this year.
I hope the Masters is never made into a ranking event. Its prestige comes from the fact that it is purely for the elite top 16, a reward for being the best players in the world, and long may that continue.
Ding Junhui v Ronnie O’Sullivan
Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham
Neil Robertson v Mark Allen
Mark Williams v Stephen Maguire
Mark Selby v Stephen Lee
Shaun Murphy v Martin Gould
Ali Carter v Graeme Dott
John Higgins v Matthew Stevens