Alexandra Palace played host to one of the biggest events on the Snooker calendar in the 2014 Masters, which wrapped up on Sunday, Jan. 19.
The world’s most prestigious invitational tournament has had some seriously high-calibre winners down the years, and the new champion was no exception amid a field of the most talented players in the world game.
Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan defeated defending champion Mark Selby 10-4 to take home his fifth title, per the Belfast Telegraph's John Mulgrew.
Previous winners include Ray Reardon, Alex Higgins, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and O’Sullivan, and this year five previous winners returned looking to retain or regain the title.
Naturally, this made for a pretty strong field. Sixteen players took part, including the world’s best 15 players according to the official world rankings. The only unseeded player, in fact, was the World Champion and crowd favourite O’Sullivan.
His triumph fed the notion that this year's tournament was wide open.
Selby would have joined a select group of players by going back-to-back, with only Hendry and O’Sullivan being the previous four-time winners—Hendry having won six times in total. Selby spoke of his desire to join that illustrious company before the tournament,—which he fell just short of—per The Leicester Mercury:
To defend the title and join Ronnie on four titles would be unbelievable.
The Masters makes you feel special because it's only the best 16 players, so you know that every match is going to be against another top player and you will have to be at your best to win.
If you do win the title, you know you've really earned it because you've beaten the best.
The “Jester from Lester” defeated Australian Neil Robertson in the 2013 final and started the tournament against Mark Davis. Selby was in wonderful form heading into the tournament, and was unlucky to finish as runner up in the UK Championship last month. That makes falling short against O'Sullivan even more disappointing.
Robertson was the man who won that title, and the world number one sought to exact revenge for last year’s final defeat. A 10-7 victory over Selby in that final last month will surely provide him with a major boost.
He won this championship back in 2012 and was a hot favourite to reach his third consecutive final. Robertson became the first ever overseas player to win the UK, World and Masters Championships and after his most recent triumph has spoken to BBC Sport of his want to win a coveted triple crown; winning all three of the major titles in one season:
I'd love to win all three in the same season The way I've played over the past six or seven months, I think I really deserved to win the UK
That pressure is off me now. I'm just challenging for titles now. To win nine ranking tournaments, plus the Masters - I've won everything in the game now.
I guess I'm just going to try and repeat the achievement
But it wasn't meant to be, as the favourite with the crowd and the bookmakers in the mercurial O’Sullivan reigned superior. Success here puts O'Sullivan within one title of Hendry on five Masters titles and supporters were delighted to see him in action after reports surfaced he was considering pulling out of this tournament back in December.
The tournament got underway on Sunday, Jan. 12, with the first round consisting of eight ties over the course of four days. Here were the full first round fixtures and start times (GMT):
First Round Schedule:
Sunday 12 January
Mark Selby vs. Mark Davis (13:00)
Stuart Bingham vs. John Higgins (19:00)
Monday 13 January
Judd Trump vs. Marco Fu (13:00)
Stephen Maguire vs. Joe Perry (19:00)
Tuesday 14 January
Ding Junhui vs. Shaun Murphy (13:00)
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Robert Milkins (19:00)
Wednesday 15 January
Neil Robertson vs. Mark Allen (13:00)
Barry Hawkins vs. Ricky Walden (19:00)
Read on to find out what happened as the exciting tournament unfolded.