The Masters draw: Ronnie O'Sullivan returns to Alexandra Palace against Ding Junhui
The draw for the 2021 Masters has been made, with Ronnie O’Sullivan returning to the competition against Ding Junhui.
The Rocket skipped the tournament last season, with Ali Carter taking his place in the draw and enjoying a remarkable run to the final, where he lost to Stuart Bingham.
The world champion has decided to play this time around, though, and has a tricky first assignment against Ding, who he beat en route to his World Championship triumph in August.
Defending champion Bingham takes on Thai debutant Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, while world number one Judd Trump plays David Gilbert, who made the semi-finals last year.
Neil Robertson meets Yan Bingtao, Mark Selby takes on Stephen Maguire, John Higgins plays Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson faces Jack Lisowski and Shaun Murphy is drawn against Mark Williams.
John Higgins vs Mark AllenStuart Bingham vs Thepchaiya Un-NoohRonnie O’Sullivan vs Ding JunhuiKyren Wilson vs Jack LisowskiShaun Murphy vs Mark WilliamsNeil Robertson vs Yan BingtaoJudd Trump vs David GilbertMark Selby vs Stephen Maguire
The tournament runs from 10-17 January at Alexandra Palace, London, and will see a return of fans to a snooker tournament for the first time since a few attended the World Championship final at the Crucible.
There will be up to 1,000 fans at Ally Pally in each session as they watch the top 16 players in the world battle it out for the £250,000 top prize.More: Snooker
O’Sullivan had hinted that he would play the Masters, but only if his media commitments were kept to a minimum, having become frustrated by this, and trying to provide tickets for friends and family, in previous years.
‘The ticket situation and requests for tickets is a big one for me,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport. ‘Then you have the media commitments.
‘Like I’ve said, the reason I didn’t play in the Masters last year was because I felt after I won my semi-final (in 2019) there was so much time taken we couldn’t prepare as well enough for the final as I’d have liked to have done.
‘I’ve said, if I do reach the final then I’m happy to give an hour of my time, but after that I need to get home to get some rest.
‘Thankfully, after the World Championship semi-finals, they agreed to that. I’ve put them protocols down for myself because I do want to play in those tournaments.
‘You want to play and give it your best. You don’t want to get to the final and your time is spent trying to make some kind of commercial.
‘Anything that distracts you up until that point has to come at a minimum or at least your priorities have to be considered. As long as they are considered, and you can work with the promoters and they are understanding, I shouldn’t see an issue in me playing.’
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