The Players Championship Grand Final field will be whittled down to eight by the end of today as the tournament nears the business end in Preston.
Wednesday saw the conclusion of the first round as the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hawkins breezed into the last 16 but world no.2 Mark Selby went crashing out to David Gilbert.
Leicester’s Selby would have begun the event as one of the pre-tournament favourites – particularly with his favourable record in the satellite PTC events that earn you qualification for the Grand Final.
However, he was downed 4-0 in convincing fashion by Gilbert, who will now play another fellow Englishman Joe Perry following the ‘Gentleman’s’ contrasting 4-3 scrap with Mark Davis.
The ‘Rocket’ looked in a commanding mood once again as breaks of 107 and 73 helped him ease his way to a 4-0 victory over Scott Donaldson while Hawkins, the player O’Sullivan beat to lift his fifth World Championship crown last May, repeated the scoreline in a heavy win over Stephen Maguire.
O’Sullivan will be the heavy favourite once again in his next encounter versus China’s Yu Delu, who edged compatriot Liang Wenbo 4-2, and Hawkins could potentially be his last eight opponent should he overcome Welshman Ryan Day.
Day just about fell over the line in a 4-3 triumph over Stuart Bingham in what was a rather dire affair throughout.
The 34 year-old will have to improve his game considerably if he is to stay in the tournament beyond Thursday but the joys of the short format mean that is more realistic than normal.
The best performance of the entire round arguably came from Mark Allen after knocking in breaks of 136, 107 and 94 en route to a difficult 4-2 victory over Jamie Jones.
Former Crucible quarter-finalist Jones led 3-1 at one point but barely had a chance in the fifth frame and didn’t even score a point in the final two as the Northern Irishman rattled off consecutive frame-winning contributions.
Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien then set up an all-Ireland clash with the Ulsterman, managing to pip Michael Holt in a 4-3 thriller despite having surrendered an earlier 3-0 lead.
With defending champion Ding Junhui dramatically going out on the opening day the top half of the draw, which includes O’Brien, looks decidedly open.
Allen, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Marco Fu are standout names but all of them are susceptible to a surprise loss here and there.
The bottom half is slightly more loaded with firepower, especially with the likes of O’Sullivan and Judd Trump included.
That said, Trump has one of the toughest tests as he prepares to do battle with the in-form Shaun Murphy, the recent Haikou World Open champion.
Murphy has been steadily building in confidence for a couple of months to the point where he is proving a very difficult player to beat, highlighted by his win over the world no.1 Neil Robertson in the first round.
Despite all that, the more you look at the draw the more it becomes apparent that the player that once again will be the most difficult to overcome is Ronnie O’Sullivan.