Ron’s keen. Just not on Milton Keynes, the temporary home of snooker during the pandemic and new host venue for the 47th staging of the elite Masters tournament involving the game's top 16 players.
World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan had been relishing a rare week away from the Buckinghamshire town to meet fellow Masters winner Ding Junhui on Wednesday 13 January at 1pm in the first round at London's Alexandra Palace before the venue change.
With rising coronavirus cases gripping the capital, tournament organisers World Snooker Tour have taken the decision to move the invitational event away from the Ally Pally and back to the Marshall Arena, host venue for every WST event after O’Sullivan claimed his sixth world title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last August.
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London was plunged into Tier 4 lockdown restrictions before Christmas prompting WST chairman Barry Hearn to abandon plans to host 1000 fans for each session at the Alexandra Palace between 10-17 January.
Like the UK Championship in December, the Masters will be moved behind closed doors in MK in response to the health crisis.

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“It’s disappointing there won’t be any fans at the Masters because you are playing in such a big venue and it’s going to be empty,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport ahead of the venue switch. “But I’ve got to be honest, anything is better than going back to Milton Keynes.
“I’m not going to moan or complain in being able to not have to go and play snooker in Milton Keynes just for the odd week.
“Hallelujah! Halle-bloody-lujah! Honestly, it is okay and it has served a purpose, but to have to play every event there is just hard, hard work for a lot of people.”
Snooker's greatest player of all time compared playing in the Championship League event at the Marshall Arena in prison last June to doing prison time as he survived in a hotel room on cornflakes.

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Professionals have been forced to self-isolate in a green baize bubble under strict health guidelines at the complex after enduring a Covid-19 swab test a day before they are cleared to play with several forced to leave the building after testing positive.
O’Sullivan feels the sport’s biggest events – the World Championship (Sheffield), the Masters (London) and UK Championship (York) – should all be kept in their respective home cities moving forward.
“If this is going to go on much longer, it would be nice to have at least three tournaments in the whole year away from Milton Keynes,” said O’Sullivan, winner of the Masters in 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
“We can go to York, the Ally Pally and the Crucible – three tournaments where you don’t have to face Milton Keynes week in, week out.”
Despite winning the Tour Championship in Milton Keynes last July, the 2004 UK champion Stephen Maguire lamented being constantly restricted to a hotel room in travelling to the venue from Scotland with all eight events of the 2020/21 campaign – including the UK Championship last month – being staged at the Marshall Arena.

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O’Sullivan can sympathise with Maguire’s plight. After the Masters, the German Masters, Shoot Out and WST Pro Series are already pencilled in for the venue in February and March. For the foreseeable future, Milton Keynes is the home of snooker.
The world number three has suggested he would rather play the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley – an outpost he berated for smelling of urine at the English Open in 2018 – than endure the landscape of Milton Keynes.
"It’s on a retail park. It’s just off the motorway and there is nothing there,” explained O'Sullivan. "For me, it was alright because I could just drive in and out.
“For a lot of the Scottish guys and for players when they came they had to stay on site..I just think it drives you crazy in the end.
“There are maybe two or three restaurants you can go to and Marks and Spencer.
“That’s it. It’s not like you can walk into town and get a coffee to break your day up. York is a fantastic city, Sheffield is a nice city. You can at least enjoy the surroundings.

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“As far as the snooker goes, yes it is six pockets on a table and you can put it anywhere.
“But the hardest part of snooker is your downtime and if you are in a place that isn’t great, it can grind you down.
“Listen, it was alright. I spent a lot of my time running, training and keeping fit and just pitching up at the last minute to hit a few balls."
O’Sullivan opted out of last year’s event due to his unhappiness over media demands before his 10-4 defeat to Judd Trump in the 2019 final, with his replacement Ali Carter losing 10-8 to Stuart Bingham in the 46th Masters final, but covered the event for Eurosport.

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“I was working on it last year and I really enjoyed working on it not having to deal with the pressures and all that sort of stuff,” said O’Sullivan. “But I thought this year that it would be good to get back. I’ve probably got three or four years left on the main tour.
“I still want to play, but probably not with the same intensity.”
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Watch live coverage of the 47th Masters on Eurosport between 10-17 January 2021.

2021 Masters first round draw and schedule

  • Judd Trump v David Gilbert (1pm Sunday 10 January)
  • Kyren Wilson v Jack Lisowski (7pm Sunday 10 January)
  • Stuart Bingham v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (1pm Monday 11 January)
  • Shaun Murphy v Mark Williams (7pm Monday 11 January)
  • Mark Selby v Stephen Maguire (7pm Tuesday 12 January)
  • Neil Robertson v Yan Bingtao (1pm Tuesday 12 January)
  • Judd Trump v David Gilbert (1pm Sunday 10 January)
  • Kyren Wilson v Jack Lisowski (7pm Sunday 10 January)
  • John Higgins v Mark Allen (7pm Wednesday January 13th)
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui (1pm Wednesday January 13th)
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