With the World Championships just weeks away, only two tournaments remain before the showpiece at the Crucible, and one of them is the Ladbrokes Players Championship, kicking off this week in Manchester.
The tournament marks the end of the European and Asian Tours, with 24 spots going to those from the European Tour Order of Merit, two places to players from the Asian Tour Order of Merit, plus another six from a combination of both lists, meaning we’ll have 32 of the world’s top players in action.
Fans should be in for a treat this week with cracking matches up and down the draw, so with the tournament almost underway, here’s what to look out for on day one at Event City…
The Chinese star has been playing excellently of late, reaching the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix and the last eight at the Welsh Open, and has the extra impetus of knowing he still needs a few wins if he wants to land a top 16-spot at the World Championship.
Opening against David Gilbert, Ding could be on course for a potentially barnstorming quarter-final tie with Judd Trump.
Veterans to roll back the years
One of the opening day‘s highlights will surely be Marco Fu’s clash with Alan McManus.
The pair have each been professionals for over 18 years, and both men are still capable of turning it on, with Fu winning the non-ranking General Cup earlier this season.
Trump’s tricky first round
Tournament favourite Judd Trump will need to begin sharply in Manchester.
The 26-year-old opens against Martin Gould, enjoying his finest campaign yet.
The Pinner potter claimed his first ranking title in the German Masters earlier this year, and is very much in the form capable of pushing Trump all the way.
Murphy to build on form
After a quiet campaign, Shaun Murphy burst into life with a thrilling 10-9 victory over Joe Perry in the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix last time out.
The 2005 world champion appears to be hitting form at just the right moment, and his first round tie with Liang Wenbo could be a must-watch.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.