The best 16 players from this season will be in action.
Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, and Mark Selby are among the star names expected to featured in the draw for this week’s Players Championship.
After a change of pace at the Celtic Manor Resort for the Welsh Open, it’s a return to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes for the latest ranking event on the calendar.
In recent years, the Players Championship has become one of the bigger tournaments on the schedule with an elite set of participants in the field.
Prize, History, and Format
In its current guise, the Players Championship has been around since 2017, but the competition evolved from a previous incarnation as the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals, which ran between 2011 and 2016.
For the first six editions, the line-up was determined by the order of merit on the now defunct PTC series.
During those years, there were six different winners including the inaugural champion Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui, and Mark Allen.
However, since 2017 the event was altered to boast the top-16 earners on the one-year rankings list overall, and only Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan have emerged with the title since with a brace of glories apiece.
Last year’s final saw Trump hammer Yan Bingtao 10-4 to claim a £125,000 top prize that will also be on offer on this occasion.
The format is similar to that incorporated for the Masters, with best-of-11 fixtures utilised for the first three rounds before a 19-frame final showdown for the title.
2021 Players Championship Draw
A total of 16 players have qualified for the Players Championship draw, which has been made based on their seeding position from the one-year standings.
The first seed takes on the 16th, the second seed plays the 15th, and so on down through the list.
It means that Trump begins his defence against Stuart Bingham, who just about hung on to secure his place despite losing in the first round last week in Wales.
Trump remains the bookies favourite in the betting market even though he succumbed to a minor dip in form a week ago that resulted in his failure to reach the quarter-final or better of an event for the first time this season.
The runaway world number one is currently priced at 11/4 in the Betway sports odds for a repeat Players Championship success, ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson.
With so many in-form competitors participating, it’ll prove as difficult as ever to predict the outcome and there was always going to be a humdinger or two as early as the opening stage.
O’Sullivan, fresh from his dramatic 9-8 reverse against underdog Jordan Brown in the Welsh Open final, and Ding Junhui is arguably the tie of the round.
Brown’s reward for qualifying for the Players Championship for the first time in his career is a date with legend, John Higgins.
The clash between Marks Selby and Williams is another one that stands out, with the Welshman elevating himself into the qualifying positions just in time following his run to the Welsh Open semi-finals.
Neil Robertson is up against Lu Ning, with the winner facing either Kyren Wilson or Ryan Day in the last eight.
Jack Lisowski entertains Martin Gould in what promises to be an open fixture with plenty of big breaks, while Zhou Yuelong is in action against former champion Barry Hawkins.
Last 16 Draw
Judd Trump (1) vs Stuart Bingham (16)
Zhou Yuelong (8) vs Barry Hawkins (9)
Jack Lisowksi (5) vs Martin Gould (12)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (4) vs Ding Junhui (13)
Neil Robertson (3) vs Lu Ning (14)
Kyren Wilson (6) vs Ryan Day (11)
Jordan Brown (7) vs John Higgins (10)
Mark Selby (2) vs Mark Williams (15)
Where to Watch the Players Championship
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on ITV4 in addition to blanket Eurosport coverage provided to the rest of Europe.
Fans around the world will have various other options available to them, which you can find more details for here.
As has become the norm since last year, the tournament in its entirety will be staged behind closed doors.
Featured photo credit: WST