Players Championship Grand Final Preview

Think you can catch a breather now that the World Grand Prix is over? Think again!

Barry Hawkins beat Gerard Greene in the 2014 final - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
Barry Hawkins beat Gerard Greene in the 2014 final – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Tuesday sees the start of the Players Championship Grand Final, for the first time taking place in Thailand.

Last year’s edition was supposed to be held in Bangkok before political unrest in the country enforced a change in venue to the Preston Guild Hall.

For three years from 2011 until 2013 the tournament was staged in Ireland – the last time professional snooker has been played on the Emerald Isle.

From a straightforward fan’s point of view, Thai tournaments are generally disappointing as the crowds tend to be noticeably low.

However, it is understood that World Snooker brokered a very good deal to have the competition there and, for the players and the sport, that in itself is a positive.

The Grand Final represents the conclusion to both the satellite European and Asian Tours that produced nine events throughout this campaign.

32 players in total have qualified, all ready to do battle for the 100,000 winner’s cheque that’s up for grabs on Saturday.

Unlike the World Grand Prix in Llandudno, which offered the same tidy sum of money, earnings in the Grand Final counts towards the world rankings list.

That ensures that the likes of Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire, Robert Milkins and Michael White will all be seeking a good run with only this and the upcoming China Open counting towards the standings before the World Championship cut-off point – at which point the top 16 players who will automatically qualify for the Crucible will become known.

Williams at this point looks relatively safe barring a freak set of results but Scotland’s Maguire is in a more precarious position, not helped by his decision to not enter the Indian Open.

Failure to get inside the top 16 – essentially 15 because Ali Carter’s seeding of 13 has been frozen this season – will result in three qualifying rounds being necessary for all competitors in order to reach Sheffield.

Nobody would fancy playing someone of Maguire’s calibre in the qualifiers but neither would the former world semi-finalist be keen on risking his place at the season-ending showdown.

Maguire’s task is made even harder by the fact that he has been drawn with countryman and Welsh Open champion John Higgins in the first round in the Far East.

Most of the big names are in the running, with Ronnie O’Sullivan the most notable absentee.

Interesting last 32 ties include World Grand Prix champion Judd Trump’s clash with 20 year-old Luca Brecel and the pairing of Australian Neil Robertson and Honk Kong’s Marco Fu.

Defending champion Barry Hawkins, who has suffered a dreadful start to 2015 with only a solitary victory to his name, plays fellow Englishman Mark King.

All of the matches follow a similar pattern to the Tour events, that is being playing out over the now familiar best-of-seven format.

Coverage will be on Eurosport throughout the week.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.

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