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Six To Watch In Llandudno

An elite field of 16 top stars will be in North Wales next week for the Ladbrokes Players Championship where a top prize of £125,000 will be up for grabs..

Here are half a dozen players who could be challenging for the crown at Venue Cymru. There’s still time to buy tickets – for details click here.

Ronnie O’Sullivan
The Rocket topped the bill when we picked six to watch at the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix last month, and he marched to the title by beating Ding Junhui 10-3 in a one sided final. At the age of 42, O’Sullivan is playing arguably the best snooker of his career over a sustained period. He has won more ranking titles, made more centuries and earned more prize money in a single season than ever before…and there are still three huge tournaments to go. Having already trousered £668,500 this term, a strong finish to the campaign could see him become the first snooker player to earn £1 million in prize money in a season. This tournament now has an identical format to the Masters (best of 11 until the final, then best of 19) where he has triumphed a record seven times. O’Sullivan is hot favourite as he chases the ‘Ladbrokes double’.
First round: Faces Graeme Dott on Tuesday evening
Ladbrokes odds: 7/4

John Higgins
In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the supercomputer Deep Thought calculated that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. Higgins, O’Sullivan and Mark Williams are all now adding weight to that theory. The trio from the Class of 92 are all currently aged 42, and between them they have won eight of this season’s 17 ranking events (last season, they didn’t win a single one). Higgins is the man in form having won the Welsh Open for a record fifth time earlier this month, beating Barry Hawkins 9-7 in a cracking final to land his landmark 30th ranking title. He faces Anthony McGill in a first round tartan tussle – and the Wizard has beaten his young apprentice in all three meetings so far this season. They meet again today at the Romanian Masters.
First round: Plays Anthony McGill on Wednesday afternoon
Ladbrokes odds: 7/2

Ryan Day
Another man in form, Day is having easily the best season of his career so far. Last June he ditched the ‘best player never to win a ranking title’ tag with victory at the Riga Masters, and just a few days ago enjoyed the feel of silverware again when he lifted the Gibraltar Open trophy. Next week he’ll have the added incentive of chasing a top 16 place; he’ll probably need a semi-final run in Llandudno to have a chance of an automatic spot at the Crucible. Day was also a UK Championship semi-finalist and has no fear of taking on the top stars on the TV table, so he’ll fancy a crack at World Champion Mark Selby, who has struggled for consistency this season. If you’re backing Day, just hope he doesn’t decide to change his cue 15 minutes before the match.
First round: Faces Mark Selby on Tuesday afternoon
Ladbrokes odds: 50/1

Neil Robertson
Despite missing the Masters due to a brief absence from the top 16, Robertson has shown fine form in recent months. He won the Scottish Open and it was only outstanding performances from his opponents which knocked him out of the UK Championship, World Grand Prix and Welsh Open. The Aussie is one of only five players to have won more than one individual title this season, having also captured the Hong Kong Masters. Llandudno has not been a happy hunting ground for Robertson – he has not been beyond the quarter-finals – but he’ll be determined to finish the season strongly.
First round: Faces Luca Brecel on Tuesday evening
Ladbrokes odds: 14/1

Judd Trump
Jak Jones, Michael White and Noppon Saengkham have all scored surprise wins over Trump in recent weeks. Like Selby, Trump’s form this season has been patchy. Last July he underwent laser eye surgery, and may still be adjusting to the change. He beat Marco Fu in the final in Llandudno last season and enjoys the challenge of defending a title, as he proved in winning the European Masters in October. Amid the criticism Trump often receives when he loses a match, it is sometimes forgotten that at the age of 28 he already has eight ranking titles under his belt; no other current player under 30 has more than two. In a feature about Trump in our official Ladbrokes Players Championship programme (available soon here) John Higgins says: “Judd is a better all-round player than when I played him in the 2011 world final. He is doing things in the right way.” Trump faces a fascinating opening assignment against an in-form Stephen Maguire who is chasing a top 16 place.
First round: Plays Stephen Maguire on Wednesday afternoon
Ladbrokes odds: 10/1

Ding Junhui
Another of snooker’s big guns who has a ranking title to his name this season – the Yushan World Open – but has also suffered several surprise early exits. He had to pull out of last week’s Gibraltar Open because his cue and suitcase got lost in transit, so hopefully all of his essential kit has now made it back to his base in Sheffield. China’s top star performed superbly to reach the final at the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix, knocking out the likes of McGill and Selby, before being blown away by O’Sullivan. Ding will want to build more confidence before he heads to the Crucible next month to pursue his ultimate quest to win a world title.
First round: Faces Mark Allen on Monday evening
Ladbrokes odds: 25/1

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