Masters Snooker 2022 – John Higgins v Zhao Xintong

Former snooker professional Craig Edwards @EdwardsTips_ previews the Masters’ Snooker for BetWithUs

Alexandra Palace in London

January 9-16

John Higgins v Zhao Xintong

Head-to-Head: 3-4

Betting Odds: Higgins 4/7 (1.57) Xintong 17/10 (2.70)

As always at the Masters’ with only the top 16 players qualifying for this prestigious event there are exciting matchups everywhere you look all week.  The most intriguing first-round match, in my opinion, is John Higgins against Zhao Xintong the new UK Championship.   It pits the wily wits of the veteran Scot against the ‘new kid on the block’ in a classic youth vs. experience match up.

John Higgins has been a revelation since the beginning of 2021 with a year of renaissance beginning at last year’s Masters’ when he lost in the final behind closed doors to Yan Bingtao.  A few weeks later he produced the best tournament display of the year winning the Players Championship with snooker of utter dominance against Ronnie O’Sullivan, Kyren Wilson and Mark Selby.  In the new 2021/2022 season he’s made three finals, losing deciders to Mark Allen and Neil Robertson while also losing in a one-sided Champion of Champions final to Judd Trump.  My ratings for 2021 have him as the second-best player in the calendar year.

Zhao Xintong has had a very different season and his many followers were getting frustrated about his lack of results and ability to breakthrough.  When he did breakthrough, he did it in style by winning the sports second most prestigious tournament, the UK Championship at 200/1 (201.00).  Subscribers of mine were delighted by the result given I had tipped him at 40/1 (41.00) to win the quarter on the back of a couple of promising qualifying efforts. 

Zhao Xintong was back in action last week at the Championship League where he breezed through his group winning eight successive matches.  Snooker traditionalists struggle to cope with the Championship League format but perversely, it’s become the best form guide to the World Championship.  You need the ability to play all day and bounce back from bad sessions or poor results.  Little wonder Kyren Wilson has become so adept in the format given his World Championship form in recent years. 

Championship League form has been a positive to Masters Snooker success in recent seasons

Interestingly, it was this time last year in the Championship League that it became apparent that John Higgins was working hard at his game with a change in his technique and a new cue.  Luckily, having watched him in those Championship League matches, I tipped him in last year’s Masters’ Snooker to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 11/4 and Mark Allen 6/5 while also landing an 11/1 winner in the “to reach the final” market.  Sadly, for John Higgins, this year’s Championship League participation doesn’t come until after the Masters’ handing a sharpness advantage to his young opponent.  That’s not the only advantage Zhao Xintong has over John Higgins as he’s peculiarly always played well versus the Scot and can boast a winning head-to-head record.  That head-to-head tally included beating Higgins at the Barbican Centre in York at the UK Championship.  Higgins has strangely poor records at the Barbican Centre and the Alexandra Palace so those injections of dopamine a player returning to a favourite venue are also lacking this week.

There’s been some 17/10 (2.70) bandied about for Zhao Xintong to beat John Higgins but anything above 6/4 (2.50) is value in my eyes given the young Chinese player has everything going for him.

BetWithUs Snooker Pick – Masters Snooker

Zhao Xintong to beat John Higgins 6/4 (2.50) Spreadex

Quarter 1

Quarter 1 looks eminently winnable for Zhao Xintong with a potential encounter against the winner of Yan Bingtao and Mark Williams should he beat Higgins.  Despite being the sharpest of all four players he’s the outsider despite Mark Williams getting over Covid and his young compatriot Yan Bingtao moving into his new home and nesting.  The outsider of four in the weakest quarter is understandable given he plays John Higgins in the opener, but the potential value is tempting enough for a modest investment.

BetWithUs Snooker Pick- Masters Snooker – Quarter 1

Zhao Xintong – to win Quarter 1 @ 4/1 (5.50)

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