Five players to watch at the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix
The snooker world will be turning its attention to Llandudno next week, as the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix shapes up to host its first ranking tournament in north Wales.
Judd Trump won the inaugural competition 12 months ago, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-7 in the final to claim the £100,000 prize.
This time around ranking points are at stake, and with just over a month of the season remaining before the World Championships take place at the Crucible, every player will be giving it their all.
But while you won’t struggle for column inches about the tournament favourites, we’re giving some air time to a few of the lesser-known players among the 32 competitors at the Venue Cymru next week…
China’s Tiang Penfei has enjoyed his second-best season to date, appearing at four ranking events including a third round run at the International Championship.
The 27-year-old faces number three seed Martin Gould in the opening round, but if he can play the sort of snooker which saw him beat 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy en route to the Ruhr Open final in October, Tian is plenty capable of causing an upset.
The 20-year-old German has enjoyed a sterling season, after reaching the German Open final in addition to fourth round appearances at the Welsh Open and UK Championship.
His form this year mean’s Brecel is seeded 12th in Llandudno, but he’s still an underdog at the bigger tournaments. First up is Ali Carter and the two-time World Championship finalist will need to play well to avoid an early exit.
Northamptonshire’s Kyren Wilson may be seeded fourth in north Wales, but the 24-year-old was ranked outside the top 50 before this season got underway.
A stunning run at September’s Shanghai Masters however – where he required three qualifying matches to enter – saw him become the lowest ranked player since 2005 to win a ranking title with victory over Judd Trump, and Wilson rose 30 places to world number 22.
A semi-final run at the German Masters increased his stock further, and like Brecel, is on course to become a major player in the sport’s new generation.
The Welshman owes much of his place in this year’s tournament to his semi-final run in the Australian Goldfields Open.
The 28-year-old showed glimpses of his talent by hammering Mark Selby 5-1 Down Under, and raced into a 4-0 lead over John Higgins in the semi-final before the four-time world champ responded.
One of the lowest-ranked players in the tournament, world number 63 David Grace enjoyed a sterling run at the UK Masters.
Having seen off 2004 world champion Graeme Dott and 2002 champ Peter Ebdon to reach the quarter-finals in York, Grace then saw off Martin Gould to land a first semi-final spot at a ranking event, where he was undone by Liang Wenbo.
The Yorkshireman opens with quite the litmus test in north Wales, when he takes on seasoned pro Mark Allen.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.