Masters snooker: Mark Selby targets third victory in five years

Mark Selby
Selby won the Masters in 2008 and 2010 and was a losing finalist in 2009

World number one Mark Selby is hoping to continue his good form at the Masters when this year's tournament begins on Sunday.

Selby, 28, who plays Stephen Lee in the first round, won the event in 2008 and 2010, and reached the final in 2009.

"Each player seems to excel at a different type of tournament and with me, it appears to have been at the Masters," said Selby.

"The big crowds seem to bring out the best of me and I play my best snooker."

The non-ranking invitational tournament, which brings together the world's top 16 players, has moved to Alexandra Palace this year, bringing an end to a 33-year stay at Wembley.

While Wembley holds good memories for Selby, the 28-year-old doesn't believe the new venue will affect his chances of winning a third Masters title in five years.

"I enjoyed playing at Wembley Arena," said Selby. "I won the tournament there so I'm obviously going to say that but I'm always open for change and as long as I have a good tournament, I don't mind where it's played."

Selby won his first major title when he convincingly beat Lee in the Masters final in 2008.

But he believes the world number 15 will still provide a stern challenge when they meet each other again on Wednesday.

"I played him [Lee] in the final and I played really well then," said Selby. "If I play like that, I know I've got a good chance.

"Stephen is obviously a class act and he has shown in the past season what kind of player he is. It's going to be a tough game."

After two thrilling Masters finals against Ronnie O'Sullivan in 2009 and 2010, in which they won a title each, Selby crashed out to Mark King in the first round last year.

Defending champion Ding Junhui opens his account with a match against four-time Masters champion O'Sullivan on Sunday in a repeat of the 2007 final, which O'Sullivan won 10-3 to leave Ding in tears.

"Last year was great for me at the Masters, I had my problems before but I put those behind me and I am looking forward to it this year," said Ding.

Two-time Masters champion Mark Williams faces a tricky encounter with Stephen Maguire, who won his first title which carries ranking points for four years when he triumphed at this month's Players Tour Championship event in Munich, in Sunday's evening session.

On Monday, UK champion Judd Trump takes on Stuart Bingham, who won his first ranking title in Australia last July. If Trump, the 22-year-old left-hander from Bristol, prevails in that match, he will face the winner of the Ding-O'Sullivan clash.

Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion and 2008 UK champion, takes on Masters debutant Martin Gould later on Monday.

World champion Neil Robertson, who has never won more than one match at the Masters, takes on UK Championship finalist Mark Allen on Tuesday with John Higgins, a two-time Masters champion, taking on 2000 winner Matthew Stevens in the evening session.

The climax of the first-round matches, which are best of 11 frames, sees Selby take on Lee on Wednesday before Ali Carter plays three-time World Championship finalist Graeme Dott.