Masters snooker 2014: Mark Selby targets defence and fourth title

Selby sets sights on fourth Masters

Defending champion Mark Selby says winning the non-ranking Masters title is important to him because it features "the best of the best".

The prestigious invitational event at Alexandra Palace starts on Sunday and features the world's top 16 players.

"If you win it, you know you have deserved it because you're playing the best players in the world," world number two Selby told BBC Sport.

"But it means if you don't play well at the start, you're going home."

Selby, who lost to Neil Robertson in the final of the UK Championship last month, is a three-time Masters champion, having won the title in 2008, 2010 and 2013.

If he successfully defends his title in London, he will become only the fourth player to do so.

Cliff Thorburn was the first to achieve the feat, triumphing in 1985 and 1986.

Stephen Hendry won five in a row from 1989 to 1993 while the late Paul Hunter took victory in 2001 and 2002.

"It would be nice to win the Masters a few more times and get up there with the likes of Hendry (who has won six titles)," said Selby.

"Because of the one-table format, every time you go out there it feels like you're playing in the final of a ranking tournament."

Hendry was allowed to keep the Masters trophy when he won his fifth successive Masters title in 1993, which was during a period when he dominated the sport.

Selby, who made the 100th 147 break in the history of professional snooker last month, says it is unlikely that a single player will able to dominate the sport now in the way the seven-time world champion did.

"I think that would be difficult now," said Selby. "The standard has gone up. Hendry and Steve Davis were fantastic, but the standard wasn't the same in the era they played in - and I think they would probably agree with that.

Selby hits snooker's 100th 147 maximum break

"The standard is now higher than it has ever been so it will be very difficult for one or two players to dominate."

Selby opens his defence against Mark Davis at 13:00 GMT on Sunday.

"Mark is a great player and has had a great few seasons of late," said Selby. "It's going to be a tough match but I'm looking forward to it."

UK Championship semi-finalist Stuart Bingham faces John Higgins in Sunday's evening match, which starts at 19:00 GMT, with world number four Judd Trump opening his campaign against Australian Open champion Marco Fu on Monday.

Stephen Maguire plays Joe Perry in the evening session on Monday.

Elsewhere, Ding Junhui, who has been the sport's most successful player this season with a hat-trick of successive titles - the Shanghai Masters, Indian Open and International Championship - plays Shaun Murphy on Tuesday in the first round.

"I have had a good rest for the past three weeks which was very important for me, halfway through the season," said world number three Ding.

"It has enabled me to recharge the batteries and I feel fresh to face the challenge ahead."

Reigning world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan faces Robert Milkins in Tuesday's evening session, while UK champion and world number one Robertson faces Mark Allen on Wednesday.

Barry Hawkins takes on Ricky Walden in the last of the opening round matches.

Mark Selby was talking to BBC Sport's Jamie Broughton