19 Mar Snooker | Players Championship
All roads lead to Sheffield in April, when the city’s Crucible Theatre plays host to the biggest event of the snooker calendar season, where the biggest stars battle for the right to be named world champion.
But first, Llandudno is on the agenda where players will battle for crucial points at the Players Championship 2018.
O’Sullivan to break Llandudno duck
It’s been a phenomenal campaign for Ronnie O’Sullivan, even by his own standards, having won three big ranking events since October and losing in the final of another. Victory in the English Open and Shanghai Masters set the scene for the Rocket to claim an incredible twentieth major title at the UK Championship in December.
However, disappointment was to follow at the Masters a couple of weeks later, where he was dumped out at the quarter-final stage by the eventual champion Mark Allen. O’Sullivan was back to his best in claiming February’s World Grand Prix. Since then the five-time world champion has enjoyed a good few weeks off.
Remarkably, the 42-year-old has never won this tournament. Will that provide any added motivation for a player who tends to be rather coy about his objectives for the rest of his career? I’ll be backing him to break his duck.
O’Sullivan is 9/4 to clinch the title.
Ding looks a solid bet
Ding Junhui’s 2018 finally came to life in the World Grand Prix as he made the final before losing 10-3 to O’Sullivan.
It was disappointing he couldn’t repeat that level of form in the Welsh Open but understandable after an intense few days.
The form of his 6-5 semi-final win over Mark Selby was very strong, making one century and four 50+ breaks (94, 91, 83, 54). He withdrew from the Gibraltar Open to keep himself fresh for this and that could pay dividends – with the Chinese player 16/1 to win the completion and looks a solid each-way bet.
Murphy loves the big stage
The man for the big occasion, Shaun Murphy is managing his workload a little differently these days, hence why his appearances on the tour are slightly more limited. But the Magician can still dazzle when the conditions suit, and the fact he has reached three ranking event finals this term – albeit losing them all – is testament to that.
One of the feathers in Murphy’s cap is that he is one of the few players to have beaten O’Sullivan in a meaningful match this season, downing the Rocket 10-8 in the final of the Champion of Champions event.
It’s a victory that would have meant a lot to Murphy, given that he and O’Sullivan are renowned for their competitive relationship.
The way the draw is set up they could meet again in the final in Llandudno; an intriguing sub-plot to what should be a fantastic tournament. So don’t be surprised to see the two old rivals battling it out in the final once again – with Murphy a massive 18/1.