Paul Krishnamurty previews the Players Championship - which starts tonight at 7pm and will be covered extensively throughout on Betfair Live Video...
"Having seen off the otherwise impeccable Neil Robertson in Germany for his seventh title since the start of 2019, Judd's two defeats since were perfectly excusable."
Players draw complete following Shootout
Apologies for the lateness of this preview, about a tournament which starts tonight. The draw was only finalised after Michael Holt's victory in the Shootout last night, which propelled him into the top-16 on the one year ranking list.
With £125,000 going to the winner and £10,000 for first round losers, this is a great opportunity for Holt to storm up the rankings (or more to the point, position himself for next season). However he must start with the hardest possible match.
For me, Judd Trump is an absolute must-bet for this tournament. Having seen off the otherwise impeccable Neil Robertson in Germany for his seventh title since the start of 2019, Judd's two defeats since were perfectly excusable.
Trump has played well even in defeat
He lost a best-of-seven to Kyren Wilson in the World Grand Prix and then, as at the Masters, ran into Shaun Murphy in unstoppable form. It is worth remembering that, in both defeats to 'The Magician' this year, Judd played very well.
Trump must be fancied to beat Holt and then start a very strong favourite against either John Higgins or Graeme Dott. With his current, much improved, mindset, I expect Judd's focus will be firmly fixed on the prize money and another title.
There's a good chance the semi-final opponent won't be anything special. Mark Selby would be tough but he remains unreliable and perhaps not the safety player of old. Ding Junhui hasn't maintained his UK title winning form. Mark Williams has been unbackable ever since his 2018 world title.
By process of elimination, that leaves Stephen Maguire at the generous odds of 40/1. There's no reason on recent form he should fear the above three opponents - the Scot's last four appearances in majors yielded a final, a semi and two quarter-finals.
No question, the biggest threat to a Trump procession is Neil Robertson. Overall I'd say the Aussie's snooker has been marginally better over the past few months. Following three consecutive final appearances, he even managed the Welsh quarters despite feeling visibly knackered.
Bingtao to make further strides forward
I suspect Trump/Robertson may once again meet in the final but there's no betting sense in backing both. There most certainly is in taking 40/1 each-way about Yan Bingtao.
He starts against Kyren Wilson, whom he would have faced in the Welsh final had Yan completed his clearance against Murphy at 5-4 up in the semi. I would have happily backed the Chinese kid at 2.56/4 in such a final. He's a massive prospect and (as we also saw en route to the UK semis), ready to step up to the big league.
Finally another outsider in the trickiest section. Murphy is definitely the form man but faces David Gilbert in a potentially very tough opener. Mark Allen doesn't lack the class but hasn't done much since the Scottish Open before Christmas.
I don't regard Allen as anything like certain to beat Un-Nooh in the first round. The Thai star isn't, or ever likely to be the complete all-round player, but he has as much talent as anyone and numerous bits of improved form over the past couple of seasons.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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