March 18, 2018

The Players Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:16 pm

It’s off to Wales this week for the Players Championship, a tournament which brings together the top 16 players from the most recent tournaments. Coverage is again on the excellent ITV4 and the fact that this is played over a longer format than last year makes it a decent event on the calendar and well worth watching.

Judd Trump defends the title he won 12 months ago and will be hoping to find a bit of form ahead of the World Championship, he’s not been firing at all lately and his army of fans must be getting a bit worried ahead of the big one again. But it’s nothing a win here can’t put right.

The first round matches are listed below in draw order, coverage starts on Monday evening from Llandudno. If you click on the match it will redirect you to the head to head statistics.

All matches up to the final are played over the best of eleven frames. I’ll post up bets on Twitter, but predictions are listed below each match.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Graeme Dott (Tuesday 7pm)

Ronnie comes into this as the player sitting way clear at the top of the one year ranking list with almost double the earnings of his nearest rival Mark Williams, with John Higgins just a few quid back in third. You’d be forgiven for thinking when looking at this list that you’d accidentally stepped into a De Lorean and ended up 10 years ago, but it’s clear as day that the Class of ’92 are still proving they are the best in the business. Even former world champion Dotty is getting a slice of the action and his recent upturn in form has got him into this in 16th place. Dotty is still more than capable of mixing it with the best and his main problem in recent years has not been producing against the big boys but maintaining that level for the chance to do it more often. I wouldn’t say he’s without a chance here but only a brave soul would back against O’Sullivan the way he’s been hitting the ball recently, the last two times they’ve met Ronnie hasn’t lost a frame so Graeme can’t really do any worse this time.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 6-2

Ding Junhui v Mark Allen (Monday 7pm)

Ding seems to be getting over his recent spell of bad form, which can be largely attributed to problems he’s been having with his vision, which is kind of important if you make a living playing snooker. Allen of course comes into this in a very odd position, he’s Masters Champion but he’s really up against it in terms of maintaining his top 16 place in the race to The Crucible and that means a good run in this is pretty important for him. Ding holds the aces in the head to head stats but a lot of their matches have come in minor events, actually it’s surprising how few times they have met given they are two top players. While there is still a slight question mark about Ding’s form and his tendency to just drift off into Dingland in longer matches, I’ll take Allen to progress and set up another meeting with Ronnie later in the week following his win over him at Ally Pally.

Prediction: Allen 6-4   

Luca Brecel v Neil Robertson (Tuesday 7pm)

Anyone know who kidnapped Luca Brecel? The olive loving Belgian was looking like a world beater 6 months ago when he blasted his way into the top 16 and since then he’s been nothing short of woeful on the table. He’s developing a very nice tan which is never a good sign in a snooker player, he seems to go on holiday alot but he’s got plenty of time on his hands as he keeps getting beat so he needs something to occupy his time I suppose. The tip of the iceberg was him coming out at The Masters with two cues, if there was ever a way to fill an opponent with confidence that did the trick. Well, he’s sorted his cue issues out now apparently so I wonder if he’ll get back to winning ways? Neil Robertson is another who has struggled with his form now for a while but signs are there that it’s coming back, he’s more or less assured of his Crucible spot having spent a bit of time outside the top 16 but a couple of wins here would set his mind at ease completely, on current form, he has the best draw of the round.

Prediction: Robertson 6-1 

Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire (Wednesday 1pm)

Stephen Maguire is another with one eye on the Crucible going into this. He’s on the brink of the top 16 and he’s playing well, so a run in this will increase his chances of getting back into the game’s elite markedly. Apparently he’s now into a strict regime of practice after a period where he was struggling to motivate himself to put the hours in. He’s ‘going to work’ every day routinely and you do often wonder why someone with such immense talent doesn’t always seem to make the most of it. Another hardcore practice player is Judd, though he seems to have fooled a lot of people into thinking he spends all his time being a playboi, when quite the opposite is actually true. But he is struggling at the moment and would badly love to get his hands on a trophy before the season is out. Judd has the upper hand in recent ties between the two and Mags hasn’t beaten him in anything for 3 years, but I think the extra motivation of that Crucible place might just reverse that this week.

Prediction: Maguire 6-5

John Higgins v Anthony McGill (Wednesday 1pm)

Oh what a surprise, an all-Scottish clash. Anthony McGill must be wondering why his ball and John’s are routinely glued together in the hat when this type of event comes around. This is the fourth time this season they have met in the first round of a 16 player event, though it does, in fairness, look like this one at least is based on their one year seeding of 3 and 14 respectively, so no more conspiracy theories from me this time. Higgins comes into this in great form and shows no signs of slowing up as the years advance, though he has admitted himself that he needs to get a bit healthier to give himself a fighting chance in Sheffield after he clearly ran out of steam in the final last time. Recent head to heads make pretty grim reading for Ants and this you feel will be the fourth time not only of them meeting at this stage, but of Higgins coming out on top.

Prediction: Higgins 6-3 

Shaun Murphy v Kyren Wilson (Monday 7pm)

Shaun Murphy was forced to pull out of the last two events with an ongoing back and neck problem, one which he says has been plaguing his career for a number of years. He even recently revealed that his coach walked all over him (literally) just before his 2015 world championship final match. I had a mate once who had one of those in a Thai massage parlour, he came out with a spring in his step so maybe Shaun should try that. Anyway, I digress, if he does make it to the table it’s difficult to gauge how he’ll play if this is as bad as he says it is. Kyren comes into this on the back of a semi-final appearance in Romania following a good win over Judd and is still looking every inch a top 10 player. Just on the off-chance that Murphy is a bit rusty, I’ll take Kyren but I’d advise against a bet in this one.

Prediction: Wilson 6-4  

Mark Selby v Ryan Day (Tuesday 1pm)

Absolute dominance is all you can say really, almost unplayable and absolutely bossing snooker, but that’s enough about Ryan Day, who here takes on the man formerly known as Mark Selby, another who can’t buy a win recently. The man at the top of the ranking list is currently a shadow of his former self whereas back-to-back titles king Day seems to have forgotten how to lose and is definitely THE man in form in the field coming into this. The World Champion famously came good around this time last season winning the China Open before successfully defending in Sheffield and who is to say the same thing won’t happen again? But he has to be concerned at this recent run which is as poor as I can remember him ever having. They met at this stage last year with Selby taking a decider and I’m sure he’d snap your hand off for that same outcome again. He has to come good soon surely? Doesn’t he? Day should be a bit knackered so Selby might at least have the advantage there, but on form alone, you have to back Day at the prices. 

Prediction: Day 6-4 

Mark Williams v Yan Bingtao (Tuesday 1pm)

There is currently a question mark over whether Williams will make it out of his house in time to play. He’s carelessly chosen to live up a hill in the coldest most remote part of Wales and is currently snowed in so his opponent Yan Bingtao will be hoping for more blizzards ahead of their scheduled Tuesday afternoon clash. I wonder if this is a problem whether they might mix the schedule up a bit? MJW was on the wrong end of a 4-0 walloping by Ali Carter last week but before that had looked right back to his best. His Northern Ireland final win over his opponent here was a classic and he followed that up with a German Masters triumph so confidence is as high as the snow outside his front door. Yan is now widely heralded as the next big Chinese star and he’s definitely improving all the time, he’ll be out for revenge here and I can see it going close again, but if it goes to the wire I’d always side with Williams, if he turns up.

Prediction: Williams 6-5 

First Round Bet – Trebles and an Acca

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