Mark Williams launches his 25th Masters campaign when he locks horns with David Gilbert at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday.
The two-time champion and two-time semi-finalist go head to head for the right to play Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals later this week.
Williams, who lifted the trophy in 1998 and 2003, is set to play his 50th match at snooker’s most prestigious invitational event, becoming only the sixth different player to reach half a century.
Also runner-up to the late Paul Hunter in 2002, the Welshman was inches away from reaching a fourth final 12 months ago as he suffered an agonising 6-5 semi-final defeat against Neil Robertson, who recovered from needing two snookers to snatch a dramatic victory.
Williams has now lost to the eventual winner on eight occasions at the Masters, with only Jimmy White (nine) suffering more such defeats.
Hoping that will serve as a good omen is Gilbert, who is set to make his unexpected third appearance at the tournament following Yan Bingtao’s suspension as part of the ongoing match-fixing investigation.
The Angry Farmer boasts an impressive Masters record, winning four of his six matches and reaching successive semi-finals in 2020 and 2021.
Gilbert is now looking for a victory that would match his best performance of the season so far, having also reached the Northern Ireland Open quarter-finals in October.
The Tamworth cueist also knows what it takes to defeat Williams in a Triple Crown event following his 13-9 success in the last 16 of the 2019 World Championship. Although a few months earlier, the Welshman had overturned a 9-5 deficit to prevail 10-9 in the World Open final.
The match gets underway at 7pm GMT on Tuesday and will be contested over the best of 11 frames at Alexandra Palace.
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