The second leg of the Cazoo Series takes place this week when the 16 leading money earners in ranking events this season head to the Aldersley Arena in Wolverhampton for the Players Championship, a tournament which is fast becoming one of the best on the circuit.
John Higgins will certainly feel that way as he played some of the best snooker we’ve ever seen to win this event behind closed doors last season. He has made it through to attempt to defend the title but 15 class acts will be out to stop him.
2021 – John Higgins
2020 – Judd Trump
2019 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2018 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2017 – Judd Trump
2016 – Mark Allen
2015 – Joe Perry
2014 – Barry Hawkins
2013 – Ding Junhui
2012 – Stephen Lee
One of the attractions of this tournament is that it is a long format right throughout, and after the first round we are in a one table arena. The first round through to the semi-finals are the best of 11 frames and then the champion will be determined on Sunday over the course of two sessions and the best of 19 frames. The top 16 on the one-year list have qualified for the tournament and have been placed in the draw by their ranking on that list.
Zhao Xintong has been the star of the season so far and he is the number one seed as he goes in search of a third title in the campaign. He was the number one seed in the World Grand Prix and bombed out in the first round so he won’t lack for motivation here. Dave Gilbert currently sits at eight on the rankings for this tournament so he is a targeted man over the next few weeks as only the top eight make the Tour Championship which is an event everyone wants to be in. Yan Bingtao is next in those rankings so the first round match between he and Gilbert will be crucial. Barry Hawkins is the last man into the field and he needs a deep run if he is going to make it to the Tour Championship.
British Open champion Mark Williams has amassed a decent amount of money this season and he is the leading seed in the second quarter. He is well on course for the Tour Championship, as is Mark Allen who is the other main seed in this section. Both men will want decent weeks just to cement their places at that event while Ricky Walden, who has made a couple of semi-finals this year, and Gary Wilson need to go deeper to ensure that they have a chance of reaching the final leg of the Cazoo Series.
Sign up for a Boylesports account to get up to £25 in free bets! Perfect offer for this event! Click the image below for this great offer! New accounts only. 18+ T&Cs apply. Gamble Aware.
There will be an awful lot of attention on this quarter this week. With the rankings being done on the one year earnings Judd Trump is only in the field at number 14 which means he was running the risk of drawing a monster in the first round. He has done exactly that as he will face the World Grand Prix champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in a huge first round. If that isn’t enough in this quarter the other first round match sees The Masters and English Open champion Neil Robertson taking on Kyren Wilson in another standout clash. Trump and Wilson need wins this week else their Cazoo Series participation will be no more.
In a normal ranking tournament we would expect to see the likes of world champion Mark Selby and the man he beat in the Sheffield final, Shaun Murphy, to be in the bottom quarter of the draw but such has been their poor seasons to date neither have made it into the event. Luca Brecel has won a tournament and made the final of another so he is the leading seed in this section while recently crowned Championship League winner and defending champion John Higgins is also here. Joining them are the Shootout winner Hossein Vafaei and Jimmy Robertson.
As well as having an eye on this week some big names will be looking to push for the Tour Championship so this is going to be a very competitive week of snooker, with that third quarter of particular interest where four of the top five players in the world are housed. When you consider that below them in the draw there is John Higgins and Luca Brecel I think it is safe to say the better part of the draw to be in is the top half even allowing for the fact that Zhao Xintong is there.
Xintong is still relative inexperienced in events of this nature as we saw at The Masters and the World Grand Prix so I will tentatively take him on with Mark Williams who I remain convinced has another tournament win in him and when it comes it is likely to come in an event with a decent format like this. Williams has already won the British Open earlier in the season and was a semi-finalist at The Masters where he was basically through to the final before throwing it away. He has made the Shootout final since then and didn’t do a whole lot wrong in defeat to Xintong in Berlin. Higgins won this from the ‘Class of 92’ last season and I think the 12/1 on Williams to keep it in that graduation school is a more than fair price.
Back M.Williams to win Players Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 13.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: