Neil Robertson looks to put his poor start to the season behind him when he plays Barry Hawkins in the Masters first round on Tuesday.
Two of the world’s best left-handers go head to head in what is a repeat of the 2022 final, which the Australian won 10-4 to claim the second of his two Alexandra Palace titles.
Robertson, who also reigned here in 2012, will hope memories of those triumphs serve as inspiration as he desperately tries to kickstart his 2023-24 campaign.
Following a series of early exits, the Thunder is currently 88th on the one-year list and in danger of having to qualify for the World Championship later at the end of the season.
But Robertson, who reached a further two Masters finals in 2013 and 2015, arrives in London for his 18th appearance at snooker’s most prestigious invitational event invigorated and rejuvenated, having spent the festive period with family in his native Australia.
Meanwhile, Hawkins joined several of his fellow professional by enjoying the festivities in Macau, where he played in a series of exhibitions.
The Hawk did so off the back of a decent start to the campaign, in which he claimed his fourth ranking title – and first in six years – at the European Masters, while also reaching the Northern Ireland Open and Champion of Champions semi-finals.
And he certainly knows how to produce the goods at Alexandra Palace, having also been runner-up here to Ronnie O’Sullivan eight years ago.
The winner of this match will play seven-time Masters champion O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals later this week.
Play gets under way at 7pm GMT on Tuesday and will be contested over the best of 11 frames at Alexandra Palace.
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