Yan Bingtao launches his Masters title defence against Mark Williams as snooker’s most prestigious invitational event commences at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.
The Tiger lifted the trophy at the first attempt in remarkable fashion at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes 12 months ago.
He reached the final following a hat-trick of 6-5 victories over Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham, before recovering from 7-5 down to stun two-time champion John Higgins 10-8.
Yan is now aiming to become only the fifth player to successfully defend the crown after Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry, Paul Hunter and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
A semi-finalist at the Northern Ireland Open and Champion of Champions this season, his quest to do so begins against two-time winner Williams.
The British Open champion has endured a stop-start campaign; battles with gout and COVID-19 hindering his progress and culminating in him unwittingly falling asleep in his chair during defeat by Anthony Hamilton at the UK Championship.
The Welshman is one of only nine players to win the Masters on multiple occasions – and one of four in this week’s field – although his record at the event in recent years leaves a lot to be desired.
Indeed, the 46-year-old has suffered first-round exits in five of the last six editions – including each of the last three – and recorded just one win from seven matches.
Although, he does boast the better of his head-to-head record with Yan, whose only victories have come at the Six-Red World Championship and Championship League.
Williams’ most notable win came in the 2017 Northern Ireland Open final, when he ended his six-year wait for ranking event silverware with a narrow 9-8 success over the then 17-year-old.
Play gets underway at 1pm GMT on Sunday with the match contested over the best of 11 frames at the Alexandra Palace.