Here we are then at the start of a new year, and as focus turns to the year ahead, we could see some new names written into the history books of one of the biggest tournaments on the UK calendar, the Masters.
This year’s Masters will be the 48th staging of the event, which first took place back in 1975, at the West Centre Hotel in London. For 47 years, it’s remained a showcase event for the sport, and an aspirational target for those who aim to make the breakthrough into the professional game.
One of the best moments in Masters history came in the first final between Ray Reardon and John Spencer, which was a thriller, going to a deciding frame that Spencer won to take the title by nine frames to eight. Interestingly, Spencer was the first amateur snooker player to turn professional in the UK in 1967 since the great Rex Williams, 16 years earlier. From that first tournament to the present day, there have been numerous highlights, so we look at the pick of the bunch involving some true greats of the game.
First Masters 147 – Kirk Stevens
It would have come as no surprise to see anyone who knew Canadian snooker player Kirk Stevens make the first 147 break at the Masters. As a young boy practising his game, he would often make substantial breaks on visits to the table; it’s said he made his first century at the age of just 12. In the semi-final against Jimmy White, Stevens was the first player to achieve the feat, earning himself £10,000 in the process and an extra £1,000 for hitting the tournament’s highest break.
Comeback king – Stephen Hendry
In 1991, Hendry was the player to watch and also the one everyone wanted to beat, and when he found himself seven-nil down in the final against Grimsby’s Mike Hallett, it looked like Hallett would take his first British title. Hendry initially staved off the threat of defeat, restoring some pride, as the scores soon read 8-2 in Hallett’s favour, but the man from Lincolnshire was unable to get that one frame he needed. Hendry made an astonishing comeback, winning seven frames in a row, and hoisted the trophy aloft for a third time in his career.
Record centurion – Ronnie O’Sullivan
Recently, Eurosport announced O’Sullivan as the best player ever to have played the sport, and it’s not surprising as he’s been a star ever since he turned professional in 1992 at the age of just 16; he became the youngest winner of the Masters three years later. O’Sullivan is once again amongst the favourites for the 2022 Masters in the Coral snooker odds, but even if he is to win, he’ll never be able to forget what happened back in 2015. Given a chance by Ricky Walden, who missed a simple looking pot, O’ Sullivan came to the table and was to achieve his 775th career century break, matching the record set by Stephen Hendry. Needing the yellow to put him on 91, to most, it was impossible, but not for O’Sullivan, and the rest they say is history.
Battle for the black – Mark Williams
Hendry was at the centre of probably the tensest finish to any tournament in Masters history in 1998 against Mark Williams. Williams, a former miner, looked like he would succumb to the player he had beaten in the British Open under a year earlier when he was 9-6 down. Still, he summed up all his grit and determination to level the match and take it to a deciding frame. Hendry missed the brown with the score 56-34 in his favour, and Williams fought back, levelling the game and forcing the black to be re-spotted. You have almost to see it to believe it, with Williams taking advantage of another uncharacteristic Hendry error to take the title.