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The Masters (known formally as the Saga Insurance Masters, for sponsorship purposes, and for many years, the Benson and Hedges Masters), is a professional snooker tournament. Although not a ranking event, it is regarded as one of the most prestigious tournaments on the circuit, earning more prize money than any other tournament except the World Championship.

History of the tournament

The tournament was held for the first time in 1975 in Londonmarker. Ten players were invited. The final was won by John Spencer, who beat Ray Reardon 9-8 to win £2000. The match had reached 8-8, and in the deciding 17th frame the scores were tied, meaning that a re-spotted black was necessary.

In a slight change for the 2007 Masters, 19 players compete (compared to 18 up until 2006). The top 16 seeds for ranking events were automatically invited, while the other players entered a qualifying tournament which granted the winner a wildcard place (won in 2007 by Stuart Bingham). The 18th and 19th places in the tournament were granted by the game's governing body at their discretion (given in 2007 to Jimmy White and Ding Junhui). These three had to play preliminary matches against the players seeded 14th, 15th, or 16th. For 2008 the tournament reverted to having 18 players - the top 16, qualifying winner Barry Hawkins and wildcard Marco Fu. These two had to play preliminary matches against the players seeded 15th and 16th (Ryan Day and Steve Davis).

The tournament has seen many memorable matches, perhaps the most memorable being the 1991 final when Stephen Hendry beat Mike Hallett 9-8 after having trailed 7-0 and 8-2. This defeat effectively ended Hallett's days as a major force in the game. Arguably the next best final was the 1997 final, when Steve Davis, the greatest player of the game until Hendry's dominance in the 1990s, defeated Ronnie O'Sullivan, the great new star of snooker, in a match disrupted by a streaker. Davis came back from 8-4 down to win the remaining six frames in a row, clinching the final at 10-8. Also memorable was the 1998 final, which went down to a re-spotted black in the deciding frame; Mark Williams defeated Stephen Hendry 10-9 after having trailed 9-7. A rather bittersweet memory was that of Ken Doherty's final black miss in a 147 attempt during the 2000 final, which he eventually lost to Matthew Stevens.

Stephen Hendry maintained an unbeaten record in the event, a run which included five successive championship victories, from his first appearance in 1989 until his defeat by Alan McManus in a final-frame decider in the 1994 final. Ronnie O'Sullivan has appeared in four successive finals from 2004 to 2007, winning in 2005 and 2007. However, it's his losses in the 2004 and 2006 finals which are widely considered to be two of the best matches played at the Masters or any tournament. Paul Hunter won the first of these, recovering from 7-2 down to win 10-9 against Ronnie, making five century breaks along the way. This was Hunter's third Masters win in four years, and sadly was his last tournament victory. O'Sullivan put on a great display to defeat John Higgins in the 2005 final, 10-3. The next year, they met once again in the final, which saw a very high standard of play throughout the match, including back-to-back total clearances of 138 and 139 for O'Sullivan to win frames 2 and 3, before losing the next five frames in a row. In the deciding frame, O'Sullivan made a break of 60 before running out of position and missing with the rest. Higgins took a pot to the middle which almost stopped short but just rolled in, then also potted a double into the same pocket later in the break. He made a clearance of 64 to win the title on the black ball. However, O'Sullivan redeemed himself the next year by dominating Ding Junhui, winning 10-3 and then comforting the clearly upset youngster afterwards.

The event was sponsored by Benson & Hedges until 2003, but UKmarker restrictions on tobacco advertising meant that it was without a sponsor the following year. In 2005, Rileys Club became sponsors of the event, but in 2006, Saga Insurance took over sponsorship of the tournament and have signed a deal to sponsor the tournament until 2009.2006 was the last year the tournament was held at the Wembley Conference Centremarker before it was demolished in Summer 2006. From 2007, the tournament takes place at Wembley Arenamarker.

Trophy name

Following the death of Paul Hunter in October 2006 , Jimmy White led calls for the Masters trophy or tournament to be renamed in honour of Hunter, who had won the title three times in four years between 2001 and 2004. Lindsey Hunter, widow of Paul Hunter, later expressed her wishes for the trophy to be renamed, claiming that "...everybody expected it. Every player I've spoken to, every fan, thought it would be a definite". World Snooker, the sport's governing body, decided against renaming the trophy, stating "Our board unanimously agreed that the Paul Hunter Scholarship was the most fitting tribute. Just as Hunter himself rose swiftly through the amateur ranks, the scholarship will give a gifted young player the chance to fulfil his talent through elite training."

Winners



Year Winner Opponent Final score Season
Benson & Hedges Masters
1975 John Spencer Ray Reardon 9 - 8 1974/75
1976 Ray Reardon Graham Miles 7 - 3 1975/76
1977 Doug Mountjoy Ray Reardon 7 - 6 1976/77
1978 Alex Higgins Cliff Thorburn 7 - 5 1977/78
1979 Perrie Mans Alex Higgins 8 - 4 1978/79
1980 Terry Griffiths Alex Higgins 9 - 5 1979/80
1981 Alex Higgins Terry Griffiths 9 - 6 1980/81
1982 Steve Davis Terry Griffiths 9 - 5 1981/82
1983 Cliff Thorburn Ray Reardon 9 - 7 1982/83
1984 Jimmy White Terry Griffiths 9 - 5 1983/84
1985 Cliff Thorburn Doug Mountjoy 9 - 6 1984/85
1986 Cliff Thorburn Jimmy White 9 - 5 1985/86
1987 Dennis Taylor Alex Higgins 9 - 8 1986/87
1988 Steve Davis Mike Hallett 9 - 0 1987/88
1989 Stephen Hendry John Parrott 9 - 6 1988/89
1990 Stephen Hendry John Parrott 9 - 4 1989/90
1991 Stephen Hendry Mike Hallett 9 - 8 1990/91
1992 Stephen Hendry John Parrott 9 - 4 1991/92
1993 Stephen Hendry James Wattana 9 - 5 1992/93
1994 Alan McManus Stephen Hendry 9 - 8 1993/94
1995 Ronnie O'Sullivan John Higgins 9 - 3 1994/95
1996 Stephen Hendry Ronnie O'Sullivan 10 - 5 1995/96
1997 Steve Davis Ronnie O'Sullivan 10 - 8 1996/97
1998 Mark Williams Stephen Hendry 10 - 9 1997/98
1999 John Higgins Ken Doherty 10 - 8 1998/99
2000 Matthew Stevens Ken Doherty 10 - 8 1999/00
2001 Paul Hunter Fergal O'Brien 10 - 9 2000/01
2002 Paul Hunter Mark Williams 10 - 9 2001/02
2003 Mark Williams Stephen Hendry 10 - 4 2002/03
The Masters
2004 Paul Hunter Ronnie O'Sullivan 10 - 9 2003/04
Rileys Club Masters
2005 Ronnie O'Sullivan John Higgins 10 - 3 2004/05
Saga Insurance Masters
2006 John Higgins Ronnie O'Sullivan 10 - 9 2005/06
2007 Ronnie O'Sullivan Ding Junhui 10 - 3 2006/07
2008 Mark Selby Stephen Lee 10 - 3 2007/08
The Masters
2009 Ronnie O'Sullivan Mark Selby 10 - 8 2008/09
2010 2009/10


Trivia

Only two players have achieved the maximum break in the tournament: Kirk Stevens against Jimmy White in 1984, and Ding Junhui against Anthony Hamilton in 2007.

References



External links




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