Masters Snooker: top 16 back in action in January 2019
Contested solely by the world's top 16 players, The Masters is one of snooker's longest running and most prestigious tournaments. Along with the World and UK Championships it is one of the sport's Triple Crown events and, although no ranking points are at stake, it is one of the most coveted trophies in snooker.
Ronnie O'Sullivan holds the record for the most Masters titles, having won the tournament seven times, while Stephen Hendry won six titles. Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis and Paul Hunter won the Masters three times and, in 2016, the trophy was renamed the Paul Hunter Trophy in honour of Hunter, who died in 2006, aged 27. O'Sullivan's nearest rival among those still playing is Mark Selby, who has won The Masters three times.
Held every January at the spectacular Alexandra Palace in North London, there's no better way for snooker fans to start the new year. Buy Masters snooker tickets now at StubHub.
Masters Snooker: one of snooker's most prestigious events
First held in 1975, The Masters began as an invitational event for 10 top players. The field was expanded to 12 competitors in 1981, and 16 in 1983. Since 1984, the standard invitees have been the top 16 players in the world rankings.
In 1984, Canadian Kirk Stevens became the first player to make a 147 maximum break at the event. It was another 23 years before China's Ding Junhui made the second in 2007, while Hong Kong's Marco Fu made the third in 2015. Ronnie O'Sullivan, who holds the record for the most maximum breaks in professional competition with 13, has never made one at The Masters.
Stephen Hendry holds the record for the longest unbeaten run at the tournament. During a run which included five successive championship victories from his first appearance in 1989, Hendry was finally defeated by Alan McManus in a final-frame decider in the 1994 final.
Three years later, Ronnie O'Sullivan became the youngest player to win The Masters, aged 19, before losing in the 1996 final to Stephen Hendry and the 1997 final to Steve Davis; with the latter probably best remembered for a female streaker interrupting the final. O'Sullivan appeared in four successive finals from 2004 to 2007 (winning in 2005 and 2007) and won again in 2009 before taking another three titles in four years from 2014-2017.
The current champion is Mark Allen, who beat Kyren Wilson 10-7 to become the first Northern Irishman to win the Masters since Dennis Taylor in 1987. Who will be crowned champion in 2019? Buy Masters snooker tickets and find out live.