Snooker: Ricky Walden heading for Alexandra Palace as the Masters returns

RICKY Walden will begin his effort to make 2013 at least as successful as last year on Tuesday as he heads to Alexandra Palace for the Betfair Masters.

The tournament, which kicks off on Sunday at the venue affectionately known as ‘Ally Pally’, is only open to the world’s top 16 players and Bagillt potting ace Walden, currently ranked 13th, will step up to the baize at 7pm on Tuesday to face Shaun Murphy.

The 30-year-old former Flint High School pupil had an excellent 2012 in which he carried the momentum of his 2011 UK Championships semi final run into the new year and went on to win the Wuxi Classic, reach the semi-final of the Six-Red World Championship and make it to the quarter final of the World Snooker International Championship.

But his momentum ran out by the time the 2012 UK Championships came back around and he made a first round exit as he lost to Belgian 17-year-old Luca Brecel.

The UK Masters will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website and will also be shown on BBC Two.

Walden’s privileges as a member of the world’s top 16 will soon end after World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn announced a major change.

From the start of the 2013/14 season in June, the top 16 players will no longer automatically start tournaments in the last 32. Instead each tournament will see all 128 players start from the first round.