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

Snooker player Ryan Day
Ryan Day has been playing very well of late

Fresh off the biggest upset in snooker history, the tour moves on to the Players Championship. Here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview...

"He'd won 22 out of 24 frames in five earlier rounds. The standard he produced...looked almost unbeatable. As good as we've seen from Ronnie in six or seven years."

Back Ronnie O'Sullivan 6u @ 5.2

The World Championship is just six weeks away and everything points to a classic renewal. We are living through a new golden era in snooker. All the elite players have found their very best at some stage this season and, as last night's marvellous entertainment showed, there has never been greater depth in the sport.

Brown demonstrates snooker's new depth

Matched at 1000.0 on the Exchange to win the Welsh Open, Jordan Brown was the biggest-priced winner ever of a ranking event. Starting at number 81, he was the lowest-ranked winner since Dave Harold in 1993.

Brown thoroughly deserved to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan, as he had in beating Mark Selby and Stephen Maguire in the previous two rounds. There was absolutely no fluke about it. His reward is a place in this elite event and a great opportunity to make further progress up the rankings.

Latest Trump failure was a blip

The Players Championship is restricted to the top-16 on the one year list. Judd Trump is the defending champion and, as usual, starts favourite.

That is no surprise, nor arguable. Last week's early loss, on a table that he never looked comfortable on during three matches, is entirely forgivable. The draw has been pretty kind too with
out-of-form Stuart Bingham first up.

However to include Trump in the staking plan would mean excluding O'Sullivan. They're scheduled to meet in the semis and backing both would be unaffordable. Based on the latter's performances last week, Ronnie is preferred.

Zhou remains highly progressive

Instead, therefore, I'll pick an outsider in this section. Trump would obviously start a big favourite against either Barry Hawkins or Zhou Yuelong in the quarter-finals, but neither is written off. Both are in great form.

Barry only went down in a deciding frame when they met in the German Masters semi, having led 5-1. Yuelong again was superb in the early rounds in Wales before running into Ronnie in unbeatable form. The Chinese youngster has beaten Hawkins in their last three matches so evidently doesn't fear him, even if he has yet to prove that against the elite. Zhou simply must win an event soon.

Ronnie well worth another chance

It was a hammer blow to lose our bet on Ronnie yesterday, having started the final at 1.11/10. No doubt Jordan's nerveless performance rattled him and O'Sullivan's standard consequently dropped from previous rounds.

That should not mean we forget just how well he was playing. He'd won 22 out of 24 frames in five earlier rounds. The standard he produced Zhou, Mark Williams or Martin Gould looked almost unbeatable. As good as we've seen from Ronnie in six or seven years.

Ronnie's best still looks unbeatable

Judd will have different ideas and has bossed his number one rival of late. Until a fortnight ago, I would have been certain to pick the world number one from this draw but right now, Ronnie looks the one to follow. He has a tough starter on paper but Ding Junhui was poor again last week and their head-to-head is relatively one-sided.

Of the big-guns in the bottom section. I'm happy to swerve Neil Robertson, whom we've barely seen play in two months and withdrew last week. The capable outsider Lu Ning could give him trouble first up.

Don't underestimate resurgent Day

The winner would play either Kyren Wilson or Ryan Day. Here the Welshman could represent a bit of each-way value at 50/1. This sometimes world-class player was superb when winning the Shootout and played well enough before running into a flying Shaun Murphy last week.

Moreover, Wilson is becoming so expensive to follow and becoming prone to losing matches from nowhere. Last week he was 3-1 up, 58 ahead with 59 left and at the table, before losing to Tom Ford. Notably too, Kyren trails Day 2-6 in their head-to-head.

Higgins a tough starter for Brown

Brown has one day to take in, celebrate and recover from his weekend heroics before another formidable task. John Higgins is very reliable against lower-ranked players and the Masters runner-up remains in fair form.

Last week's 4-3 defeat to Ali Carter came only a few hours after an incredibly dramatic late night win over Ben Woollaston in which the Scot played extremely well.

Higgins is well capable of winning anything but someway inferior to the 'big-4'. Likewise from this section, fellow veteran Mark Williams. The big-gun in question here is Selby, who also fell to Brown in another incredibly exciting finish.

Selby couldn't have been more impressive against Yan Bingtao in the previous round, barely making a safety or potting error. This isn't the easiest of draws but he's the one to beat in this bottom half.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty


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