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2018 Players Championship

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  • 2018 Players Championship

    So, the Players Championship starts tomorrow...

    There are only 16 players in the competition, so it's not really a proper ranking event in the traditional sense, but at least the format is a little more exciting than some of the recent events we've had. In fact, this tournament has been going in the right direction in recent years. Back when it was the PTC Finals the matches were very short, but it finally went to a best-of-9 format last year, and it's nice to see the matches have now been increased to best-of-11 for all rounds except the final. There just may be some hope for snooker yet.

    Listing the prominent absentees would be redundant on this occasion, because the players here are the best performers of the season so far, which makes it a world-class field by definition. Let's see what the draw looks like...

    Quarter 1:

    Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Graeme Dott
    Ding Junhui v. Mark Allen

    Ronnie O'Sullivan is the first seed here, with twice as many ranking points as his nearest rival this season. His most recent title was the World Grand Prix last month, but his other three titles this season were all before new year, as were the two finals in invitational events. He hasn't played a lot of snooker in the more recent times, but I think he is probably still the man to beat this week. This is exactly the kind of tournament he likes - two-table setup, only the top players involved, and slightly longer matches. Graeme Dott is probably the most favourable opponent he could have realistically got in the opening round here. The big points from his German Masters final were just about enough to see him qualify, but apart from the joke that is the Shoot-Out, he hasn't had any notable runs at all in the other events. He is still capable of playing world-class snooker on his day, but the consistency just isn't there anymore, and he only seems to have one or two good tournaments all season these days. He has already played O'Sullivan twice this season and was whitewashed both times, so I can't really see any surprises in this pairing.

    The other match should be somewhat more interesting. Ding Junhui is right up there with O'Sullivan when it comes to skipping a lot of events, but he does tend to find a bit of form once we get to February and March, at least in recent years. There were no real fireworks from him in the World Grand Prix last month, but he still played well enough to get to the final, which is a good sign for him ahead of the most important part of the season. Mark Allen has already had the best season of his career to date, winning the Masters in January, so the pressure is off for him a little in the last part of the season. It's been all early exits in the events since the Masters, but he is another player who is well suited to this format, so he could be a decent bet this week. Ding and Allen have done their best to avoid one another in recent years, only meeting in one match longer than best-of-7 since 2010, so it will be interesting to see how this one goes. I think Ding is a slightly stronger player when you take form out of the equation, so I would make him a slight favourite.

    I'll go with O'Sullivan in this quarter. He beat Ding very comfortably in the final of the World Grand Prix, so I think he has quite a significant psychological edge over him at the moment, especially when you consider their entire history. On the other hand, O'Sullivan's record against Allen is not that great... Allen has actually won three of their four meetings in best-of-11 or longer matches, including a real thrashing in the Masters this year. He was playing some of his best snooker that week though, whereas his average form is not quite good enough to trouble O'Sullivan usually.

    Quarter 2:

    Luca Brecel v. Neil Robertson
    Judd Trump v. Stephen Maguire

    Luca Brecel played some good snooker in the first part of the season, winning the China Championship in the summer, but recently he has gone back to losing against the type of player he really should be beating, and he hasn't really had any good runs to speak of since new year. Similar stuff with Neil Robertson, he battled well to win the Scottish Open, with a little bit of luck along the way, but since then he has suffered some early exits again, and even a defeat in the qualifiers to miss out on the German Masters. I am not really sure how to call this one... Brecel is the higher seed, while class is obviously on Robertson's side, but neither player is particularly impressive at the moment. There also isn't any real history between them, with only one meeting in the short format a few years ago. I think the slightly longer matches favour Robertson here, so I would give him a slight edge.

    Judd Trump is the defending champion, and he is under pressure a little to get a result here, having lost in the qualifiers for the upcoming China Open. He has had a reasonably consistent season so far, but as always, there is a major title or two missing. He actually has a negative record against Stephen Maguire, despite Maguire's struggles over the last decade or so, although their more recent meetings show a different picture. Trump has actually won their last four matches in the proper format, including two already this season. Maguire has had some very respectable results this season though, with a final and a couple of semi-finals in the events that carried ranking points, and I suppose he can count himself a little unlucky to run into an in-form O'Sullivan on two of those occasions. In any case, it's nice to see him playing some decent snooker again, and I hope he has a strong finish to the season. As for this week, I think he is a slight underdog against Trump.

    The quarter-final match here could be a very intriguing one. The Robertson-Maguire rivalry was very interesting for a long time in the 2007-2014 period, so I would quite like to see a revival of it here. Similar stuff with Robertson and Trump, they've had some nice battles in the last decade, but they haven't met at all in the last year and a half, with Robertson struggling to get to the business end of major events. I'm not discounting Brecel's chances either of course, but I think I'll go for Trump in this quarter.

    Quarter 3:

    John Higgins v. Anthony McGill
    Shaun Murphy v. Kyren Wilson

    John Higgins has played some good snooker this season, winning two events that carried ranking points, including the Welsh Open a couple of weeks ago. That makes him third seed this week, and I would say he is a comfortable favourite to make it past the first round. He beat Anthony McGill in the final of the Indian Open in September, then added another three victories against him this season, including one outside of the short format. I think the longer matches here actually work against McGill. He was remarkably consistent in the first part of the season, with a number of runs to the business end of events, but it's worth noting that the World Open is the only traditional event he has done well in this season, everything else has been short-format stuff. He has beaten top players in the longer matches before, but I think Higgins is the more reliable player of the two at the moment.

    There are a lot of similarities between McGill and Kyren Wilson, both of similar age and making their breakthrough in the game at roughly the same time, but I think Wilson has gone one step further in his development now. He has already reached three finals this season, including of course in the Masters, and he can count himself unlucky to have run into such inspired opponents on all three occasions. At the start of the season I predicted him to become a serious contender in the biggest events, which has turned out to be somewhat true, but of course there is still work to be done if he is to actually start winning them. Shaun Murphy has done even better than Wilson this season, with four finals to his name, including the Champion of Champions which he managed to win. In the previous couple of seasons I often criticized him for having prolonged periods of fairly mediocre results, but this season he has made up for it with some consistently strong play, and I think he could be one of the players to beat this week. He has never played Wilson in any match outside of the short format, so it will be interesting to see how this one goes.

    Only McGill going through in this quarter would be a slight surprise for me, whereas the other three players all seem to be in good form and quite confident at the moment. I suppose if I had to call it, I would go for Murphy to play Higgins in the quarter-finals, and I would have to make Higgins the favourite there. He has a habit of raising his game against players of Murphy's class, while Murphy can be a little unpredictable and often underwhelming when it comes to playing other top players, especially when it's O'Sullivan or Higgins.

    Quarter 4:

    Mark Selby v. Ryan Day
    Mark Williams v. Yan Bingtao

    Ryan Day is the man of the moment, wining back-to-back tournaments in the last two weeks, to add to his Riga Masters title from the start of the season. Okay, all three were minor events with short matches, but it's still fascinating for Day to string those wins together, after a long career of playing some great snooker and failing to actually win anything. He has made some remarkable progress in the mental side of the game this season, and with the two biggest events still to come, it will be interesting to see whether he can be a contender when it comes to the big stage. He got to the semi-finals of UK Championship as well this season, so I don't see why not. Well, the world number one is standing in his way this week... Mark Selby comes here as only the seventh seed, which wouldn't really be a disaster for any other player, but for him it's a major disappointment after his domination in the major events in the last two years. Still, Selby inevitably plays well when best-of-11 matches are involved, and it's no surprise that his one success this season came in this format in the International Championship. With the business end of the season still to come, I would expect Selby to find some form again and play a major part. He has only really lost one match against Day on the big stage in the past, in the 2008 Grand Prix, and I'm sure most people will remember the brain fart he had in the final frame of that match to basically lose from a winning position. With Day making a late travel from Romania and carrying the "previous winner curse", I have to go for Selby here.

    The other match in this quarter is among the ones I'm looking forward to the most. It's a repeat of the Northern Ireland Open final this season, where Yan Bingtao was only a few shots away from making a bit of history, but Mark Williams dug deep to come from behind and eventually prevail in a deciding frame. What I like about Yan is that there hasn't really been any period of mediocre results after that run, like the one Brecel had after reaching the 2016 German Masters final for example. The calendar wasn't in his favour, almost two months without snooker after he lost in the German Masters qualifiers, but here we are again, another good run in the recent Welsh Open to pick up where he left off. Williams is the second seed this week, and you can't really argue with that. He has won two events, and he has featured at the business end of six other events, including four big ones. It's the most consistent form he has had since 2011. He hasn't really had as much success in Wales as I would have imagined, but it would be no surprise at all if he won the title this week.

    Has there been a tournament this season where Selby and Williams have been in different quarters? Not many, at least not the ones where I have done a preview... Obviously Williams is on top at the moment, but Selby has the class to win any tournament he plays in, and sooner or later he has to find the form to start winning again. Since this quarter also includes the winner of the previous two events, things are further complicated. I can only go with my gut feeling here, and that's telling me to go for Selby. It's a strong quarter though, so whoever goes through, it won't be a major surprise.

    Possible SF line-up:

    Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Judd Trump
    John Higgins v. Mark Selby


    There we are... Unfortunately I have a fairly busy week ahead of me, but I will do my best to watch as much of this event as I can. I wish everyone a great snooker week.

  • #2
    Thanks Odrl, much appreciated.

    Looking forward indeed to the Northern Ireland final repeat as it was an intense match. Hope Murphy's over his back issue.

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    • #3
      ITV4 tonight.
      Highest break to date? 1

      Comment


      • #4
        Looking forward to Williams v Bingtao, 2 players really on form at the minute. Lots of other good matches. Will be SKY+ing most of it and watching when I get up (Mrs Sitting Room doesn't approve unless ROS is playing).

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        • #5
          2018 Players Championship

          so Joe Perry in for Alan McManus on the itv team
          Up the TSF!

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          • #6
            I like the way Yan Bingtao was introduced as the winner of the Northern Ireland Open just before Mark Williams was introduced! Oops....
            Customised full size Riley table with black pockets and Strachen 6811 Tournament Cloth all housed in an air-conditioned 8m x 5m Grande Servern Plus log cabin from Dunster House supported with RSJ's.

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            • #7
              Fascinating to see Ryan Day sweeping away everyone and everything that gets in his path in recent weeks - and now poor old Selby's bitten the dust (yet again) ...
              Last edited by crocodile; 20 March 2018, 05:29 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by crocodile View Post
                Looks like Ryan Day's been removing just about everyone and everything that gets in his way in recent weeks - and now poor old Selby's bitten the dust (again) ...
                Long may Selby continue to lose

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dave Walton View Post
                  Long may Selby continue to lose
                  In your opinion. I hate seeing him like this.
                  Customised full size Riley table with black pockets and Strachen 6811 Tournament Cloth all housed in an air-conditioned 8m x 5m Grande Servern Plus log cabin from Dunster House supported with RSJ's.

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                  • #10
                    3-0 to Ronnie.
                    Can't wait for this pandemic to end so we all can start playing again.

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                    • #11
                      Ronnie is on fire - just relentless stuff.

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                      • #12
                        Embarrassing stuff from Brecel.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by motorhead View Post
                          Embarrassing stuff from Brecel.
                          I honestly think Brecel is going to be an "also run" kind of player in the long run, has potential but never really produces it to any degree for any length of time.

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                          • #14
                            2018 Players Championship

                            thank you ITV, showing an old Mountjoy v Jones MC Classic match
                            Up the TSF!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by narl View Post
                              I honestly think Brecel is going to be an "also run" kind of player in the long run, has potential but never really produces it to any degree for any length of time.
                              matthew stevens ahem ahem

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