Richard Mann previews the first round of the Coral Players Championship where Kyren Wilson and Jack Lisowski go head to head.
Recommended bets: Players Championship round one
Tuesday's between Kyren Wilson and Jack Lisowski on Tuesday evening that makes plenty of appeal from a betting point of view.
Wilson is an 8/13 favourite to progress and his superior match play will surely give him a significant advantage, but Lisowski is a terrific talent who will certainly give the former a game if settling early.
Lisowski has been a model of consistency so far this term and although he has yet to build the all-round game required to claim a major title, he certainly boasts the attacking talents to take down the very best on his day.
As was the case when losing to John Higgins in the last 16 of the Welsh Open recently, Lisowski's potting and heavy scoring took him deep into the match until losing a deciding frame where his more experienced rival held himself together under pressure in typically nerveless fashion.
A similarly close encounter could be in the offing here and backing over 9.5 total match frames at 23/20 looks the way to go.
Of the remaining first-round matches, the in-form Ali Carter came under serious consideration at 13/10 taking on Mark Williams but following a quiet time of things this season, the Welshman looks to be working hard again as he builds up to the defence of his World Championship crown in Sheffield and I'm happy to sit this one out.
Ronnie O'Sullivan bids to recapture his very best form when defending his title in the Coral Players Championship in Preston this week, and his first hurdle comes in the shape of Barry Hawkins.
O'Sullivan was razor sharp early in the season as he relentlessly drove himself towards a record seventh UK Championship success and 19th Triple Crown title.
A bruising defeat at the hands of Judd Trump in The Masters a month later shouldn't detract from what was another excellent tournament for O'Sullivan but he hasn't been at his best since, losing to Marco Fu and Alexander Ursenbacher in the early rounds of the World Grand Prix and Welsh Open respectively, and he could well be vulnerable again in Preston.
Of course, writing off a talent as supreme as O'Sullivan is never a good idea and he could easily prove a cut above once again, for all he faces a potentially tough route to the final.
In Hawkins, though, O'Sullivan is presented with a difficult opening match on Monday night and at the prices, the former might be worth chancing.
While O'Sullivan hasn't been at his brilliant best since the turn of the year, Hawkins looks to have his game in really good working order and only a near-unbeatable Judd Trump was able to deny him a place in the final of the World Grand Prix recently.
Hawkins dominated much of that match, looking sure to win when leading 5-4, only for Trump to once again find extra when he needed it most and I have the strong suspicion that Hawkins might be able to get his hand on some silverware sooner rather than later.
A quarter-final finish at The Masters and a run to the last 16 of the UK Championship before that would certainly suggest that Hawkins is getting closer and should O'Sullivan be off his game tonight, he could be in trouble.
I did consider taking Hawkins with the insurance of the handicap - Hawkins +2.5 is available at 9/10 - but the 13/5 for him to win the match has lured me in and looks worth playing to small stakes.
Players Championship Round One Draw
- Mark Allen v Stephen Maguire
- David Gilbert v Stuart Bingham
- Ronnie O'Sullivan v Barry Hawkins
- Mark Selby v John Higgins
- Neil Robertson v Joe Perry
- Mark Williams v Ali Carter
- Kyren Wilson v Jack Lisowski
- Judd Trump v Jimmy Robertson