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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 21:48 GMT
Masters 2004: Player profiles
Mark Williams
Williams took the title with a 10-4 win over Stephen Hendry
Wales' Mark Williams ended last season as world number one and will be keen to start 2004 by retaining his Masters crown.

One of the best long-potters the sport has ever seen, Williams defeated close friend Stephen Hendry 10-4 to win last year's tournament.

The victory was the second leg of a superb hat-trick of titles in a glorious season for the 28-year-old, including the UK and World championships.

Victory at Wembley would secure Williams another hat-trick - of Masters triumphs, having also previously won the tournament in 1998.

Matthew Stevens has been agonisingly inconsistent over the years, but he has form at the Masters with his 2000 triumph over Ken Doherty announcing him on the world stage as a talent of the highest order.

That same year he reached the world championship final at the Crucible but allowed a winning position to slip away against Mark Williams, whom he faces in the opening round at Wembley.

Last season ended on a high note as Stevens, who recently became a father for the first time, edged out Stephen Hendry in the UK Championship to win his first ranking title.

If he keeps up the good form, 2004 may be the year he finally proves himself.

Paul Hunter's 2001 and 2002 Masters triumphs are part of snooker folklore, thanks to his amazing comebacks which he infamously credited to "relaxing" with his girlfriend in between sessions.

In 2001 he recovered from 7-3 behind to beat Fergal O'Brien and in 2002 came back from 5-0 down to beat Mark Williams, becoming only the third player to retain the crown.

Last year he started to add more consistency to his game and reached the last four at the World Championship with only Williams won more ranking points over the season as a whole.

Hunter will be keen to keep last year's form going this year, and few venues seem to suit him better than Wembley.

Life around Ronnie O'Sullivan is rarely quiet, and the 2003 season proved that.

Back-to-back ranking tournament wins in Torquay and Dublin got things off to a good start, but he slumped to a first round exit at the World Championship, despite a trademark brilliant 147 break.

He reached the last four of the UK Championships but once again his inner demons made the headlines as he queried whether he had the desire to continue.

"The Rocket", widely regarded as the most naturally-talented player in the game, is a guaranteed crowd-puller and his Welsh Open win over veteran Steve Davis will ensure his fans will come full of confidence.

Jimmy White
White is a former winner of the tournament
2004 marks the 20th anniversary of Jimmy White's one Masters win, but his first round win over Peter Ebdon last year was arguably a greater triumph.

On the back of a woeful run of form, the crowd favourite came from 1-5 down against the then world champion to triumph 6-5 to the delight of a packed house.

His best performance last season was to reach the last 16 at the Crucible, losing to eventual semi-finalist Stephen Lee.

At 42 years old, White still has the talent and break-building ability to be a match for anybody on his day and there could be few more popular winners.

Although the magic touch seems to have deserted him at Wembley in recent years, Stephen Hendry's five successive Masters titles are an awesome achievement.

Last season's climb up the rankings recalled the glory days of the 1990s when he was at his peak, winning an unprecedented seven world titles..

The Regal Welsh Masters was his only triumph last year but he reached finals at Wembley, Torquay and York to show he can still scale the heights.

Hendry's experience and unparalleled powers of concentration make him one of the most difficult opponents in the sport.

If Ken Doherty can start 2004 with victory in the Masters, it could inspire him to great things this year.

Twice he has reached the Wembley final, only to lose to John Higgins and Matthew Stevens, and 2003 was another year of more near-misses for the Dubliner.

His never-say-die attitude won the hearts of many supporters at the World Championships as he somehow found his way to the final, only to lose to Mark Williams, after winning a succession of final-frame shoot-outs.

He was also runner-up at the UK Championship, and reached the semi-finals in the Regal Scottish Masters.

World number five Stephen Lee has admitted his confidence was "in tatters" at some points last season, but ended the campaign in encouraging form.

Lee's sleek cueing action has had the purists purring for years and his safety play is as good as anyone's

Last year he beat Steve Davis and Jimmy White on the way to his first world championship semi-final, where he lost to eventual winner Mark Williams.

But losing to world number 21 Robert Milkins in the Welsh Open will not have encouraged him ahead of the Masters.

Alan McManus
McManus has his eyes on the title
Although Scotland's Alan McManus has only won four of his 15 major finals, he knows all about winning at Wembley, having ended Stephen Hendry's winning run in 1994.

McManus began the 2002-03 season by reaching the final of the LG Cup, only to lose to Chris Small, but that was as close as he got to silverware last term.

He reached the last eight at the Regal Scottish Masters and British Open and ended the season as world number 10.

His patient style has the ability to frustrate some of the best players in the world into rash shots leaving McManus the chance to clear up.

Australia's Quinten Hann is one of the game's most unpredictable players and he became notorious for his occasional decision to smash the cue ball pool-style into the reds from the break.

He had a mixed season last year, falling at the first hurdle in the first four ranking events before his form returned.

Victory over John Parrott in the first round at the Crucible was enough to retain his top 16 ranking place and end thoughts of returning to Australia.

With a more methodical attitude to practice and a long-term relocation to London, Hann's natural talent could finally be allowed to shine at the highest level.

Peter Ebdon is famed for his mental strength and pushing his opponents all the way in relentless fashion.

That reputation for mind games masks a highly-talented player who is more than capable of returning to the heights of his 2002 world title.

The 2002-03 season was not the best for Ebdon, who only reached the semi-finals of two of the eight ranking tournaments.

But Ebdon's attention to detail in his preparation make him a dangerous opponent.

Australia's Neil Robertson is one of the less familiar faces at Wembley this year, but the wild card entrant is tipped for great things.

Robertson is the World-U21 champion, and secured his place at the Masters with victory over Dominic Dale in the qualifying tournament.

The Melbourne-based player, who has never been to Wembley before, is well-known for his clinical long potting.

And with a first-round match against Jimmy White, Robertson has the chance to announce the arrival of another young generation of players.

China's Ding Junhui has set the snooker world on fire at just 16 years old.

He comes to Wembley with a mightily impressive record, having won the Asian Under-21 and senior titles and capturing the World Under-21 championship - all at just 15!

In 2002, he also won gold in the Asian Games and reached the World Amateur Championship last four.

He has already beaten the likes of Mark Williams and Marco Fu, and is clearly one to watch.

David Gray ended last season ranked 12th in the world, the first time he had reached the top 16.

Gray had a fantastic run at last season's Regal Scottish Open, knocking out the likes of Stephen Hendry and John Higgins before defeating youngster Mark Selby in the final.

A regular practice partner of Jimmy White, Gray has played at Wembley twice before.

In 1998 he came through the qualifying competition to earn a wild card, but it was his performance in 2000 that really made people take notice as he ousted Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Graeme Dott
Dott needs a win to boost his confidence
Graeme Dott is a member of the elite 147 club, having racked up a maximum break at the 1999 British Open, but has not been at his best form recently.

He only managed two wins in the first seven events last term before a world championship win over Robert Milkins preserved his crucial top 16 status.

Dott was hammered 5-1 by Dominic Dale in the Welsh Open and is seeking a confidence-boosting run of wins.

His steady all-round game has few faults and a change in luck could be all the 26-year-old needs to make his mark at Wembley.

Scotland's John Higgins is a two-time Master finalist, having lost to Ronnie O'Sullivan in 1995 and lifted the trophy four years later.

But the 2002-03 season was one of the worst of his professional career, as he only reached two finals, losing both to O'Sullivan.

His solid safety play and ability to accumulate points in the blink of an eye have made him one of the most consistent players on the circuit.

Despite his recent loss of form, the 1998 world champion has won a total of 15 ranking events.

Veteran Steve Davis has seen it all in his career, but to reach his fourth Masters final would be special, even by his standards.

It would be the 100th final of his 26 year career, and his recent appearance in the Welsh Open final - where he came agonisingly close to beating Ronnie O'Sullivan - shows the Davis magic is still there.

The six-time world champion can take a lot of positives from his run to the final and the narrow 9-8 defeat and will be full of confidence in front of his home London crowd.

Davis beat O'Sullivan in his last ranking final, here at Wembley in 1997.

World number 16 Joe Perry will have to come through a potentially difficult first-round match against Chinese prodigy Ding Junhui.

Perry, a massive Arsenal fan, just managed to stay in the elite top 16 players after a disappointing season last year.

The 29-year-old certainly has what it takes to succeed as he showed in reaching the European Open final in 2002.

But Perry is still seeking his first ranking title despite his abundant skill.

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