Players Championship Snooker Tips: One player to back from each quarter

Shaun Murphy sets the standard after his recent World Grand Prix win
Shaun Murphy sets the standard after his recent World Grand Prix win

Paul Krishnamurty previews this week's Players Tour Championship finale, recommending one player from each section of the draw...


"He starts against UK runner-up Liang Wenbo - a dangerous opponent whom he beat 4-0 en route to that title in Llandudno earlier this month...Given Mark Williams' lack of form, Wenbo could be Murphy's toughest challenge until the semis."

This snooker season has been the most open in the game's history - the main 15 events have yielded 12 different winners and 20 different finalists - and the line-up for the Players Championship very much reflects that trend. The six PTC events that determined it epitomised the changing order, producing two different finalists every time.

Following Mark Selby's withdrawal, only two men can truly be described as members of the game's elite, and both have very tough opening matches.


Back Shaun Murphy 8u @ 6.411/2

The first of those is Murphy, who stands tall in the top half of the draw on the basis of his World Grand Prix victory last time. He starts against UK runner-up Liang Wenbo - a dangerous opponent whom he beat 4-0 en route to that title in Llandudno earlier this month.

Given Mark Williams' lack of form, Wenbo could be Murphy's toughest challenge until the semis. Ben Woollaston, whose best form has come in best-of-seven PTCs, is a potential danger and a good value alternative at around 65.064/1.


Back Kyren Wilson 2u @ 29.028/1

The next section is headed by a man who really should be in the elite by now, but keeps letting himself down in the biggest events. PTCs are much more to Allen's liking, as demonstrated by five titles in the past four seasons. There's plenty of good form in the book after reaching the Champion of Champions final, and Welsh Open semi. Both bids were foiled by Neil Robertson, who isn't here.

Allen is highly tempting at odds of 12.5 but with such a streaky type, there always seems a danger that he'll throw in one terrible match.

Preference is for Kyren Wilson at more than twice those odds. Wilson did this column a big favour when winning the Shanghai Masters and has confirmed it was no fluke with three subsequent semi-final appearances. This rising star remains under-rated and appears clear second-best in the section.


Back Marco Fu 3u @ 17.016/1

Tournament favourite Judd Trump dominates the third section betting, but hardly represents value considering he hasn't won any of those 15 titles - losing to Wilson in his sole final appearance.

The draw could barely have given Trump a harder opponent to start. Martin Gould won their last encounter en route to the German Masters title, and could continue on the up. I've long felt Gould had plenty of unfulfilled talent, just needing to settle better on the biggest stages.

However with either facing another tricky match in the next round, possibly against Ali Carter, I'm looking to the other mini-section. Marco Fu's route to the last eight - Alan McManus followed by an out of form opponent - is far more straightforward.

The Hong Kong star booked his place with victory in the Gibraltar Open and showed plenty of winning, high-scoring form at the recent Gydnia Open before running into Selby.


Back Michael White 1u @ 55.054/1

The biggest names in this final section are Ding Junhui and Barry Hawkins, but neither make much appeal at relatively short odds. Ding has endured a terrible season, although there were signs of life when reaching the quarters and semis of the last two ranking events. However this perennially slow starter will need to be on form early, with tricky opponents throughout this section.

Likewise, take out a win in the opening PTC last July and a surprise run to the Masters final, and 2014 champion Hawkins has done very little this term.

Two youngsters catch the eye as decent value alternatives, but play one another first up. Both Michael White and Luca Brecel are future stars, with the former marginally preferred.

Brecel has begun to start showing his long-noted potential, but his case rests largely upon benefitting from an easy draw to reach the German Masters final. White, who has already won a ranking title and claimed some big scalps last month in Wales, strikes me as slightly ahead at this stage.


Follow me on Twitter @paulmotty


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