Just a day after The Masters concluded in thrilling fashion, the World Grand Prix gets underway in Leicester on Monday with the leading 32 players of the season so far in ranking events looking to pick up the opening leg of the Spreadex Series.
Mark Allen lifted this title a year ago and he has done enough over the course of the season so far to make it back into the tournament to attempt to make a successful defence of the title. There is a strong draw taking him on though.
2023 – Mark Allen
2021 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2020 (2) – Judd Trump
2020 – Neil Robertson
2019 – Judd Trump
2018 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2017 – Barry Hawkins
2016 – Shaun Murphy
2015 – Judd Trump
The top 32 money earners on the season so far make up the draw and the players have gone into the bracket placed where they are in that money list rather than their world ranking. The first two rounds of the tournament are played over the best of seven frames over the first four days of competition before the quarter finals see the format increasing up to the best of nine. The two semi-finals take place on Friday and Saturday evening over the best of 11 frames and then the winner of this first leg of the Cazoo Series is crowned over two sessions and the best of 19 frames on Sunday.
It is Judd Trump who has been the player of the season so far and he will be the number one seed and right at the top of the draw bracket once again. He is seeded to face The Masters finalist Ali Carter in the quarter final in what would be a repeat of the clash from the same stage of that Alexandra Palace showpiece last week. Mark Selby and Lyu Haotian are the other players in the top 16 on the one-year rankings in this section.
Chris Wakelin has been to a final this season so you could argue he should be ranked higher than 17 in the money list for the campaign but he has still done enough to get into this quarter while we also have a couple of Chinese players in it in the form of Yuan Sijun and Wu Yize, both of whom showed their better form earlier in the campaign. The last man into the draw was Jamie Jones and he’ll be out to take advantage of that.
Mark Williams pretty much guaranteed his position in the tournament when he won the British Open and he’ll go in search of a second successive ITV ranking event title from the second quarter of the draw. The European Masters winner Barry Hawkins is also in this section while the other two top 16 ranked players in it on the one-year list are the multiple semi-finalist from the season John Higgins and Hossein Vafaei who will be looking for a second ranking title.
There are some talented players who crept into the draw this week in this section not least The Masters semi-finalist Shaun Murphy who made it in at 21 in the standings. Matt Selt is here having been the 20th best player on the season so far while Cao Yupeng is another who will take his chances in the event in this quarter. The section is completed by the potentially dangerous Thepchaiya Un-Nooh who could be a threat over this distance.
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The third quarter of the draw is absolutely stacked with talent with the International Championship winner Zhang Anda leading the way in terms of the rankings. He is on a collision course with fellow Chinese star Ding Junhui in the quarter final after the superstar reached the UK Championship final. Noppon Saengkham has had a consistent season and that has got him in the draw in this section. Mark Allen is also in here.
Jack Lisowski hasn’t had a great season by his high standards but he has had enough consistency to it to get him into the event, although he has landed the horror first round draw of the defending champion. Dominic Dale battled hard at the Scottish Open to make it into the tournament and he’ll be in this quarter while Xiao Guodong and Ricky Walden showed enough form at the right time to get themselves into the competition.
Ronnie O’Sullivan will compete in this tournament as the number two seed a few days after landing another Triple Crown title at The Masters. He seemed pretty convincing when he said he was burned out after winning that event though so that will encourage everyone else in this quarter which includes the International Championship finalist Tom Ford, Gary Wilson, whose successful title defence at the Scottish Open got him into the tournament and Zhou Yuelong who remains a consistent player.
Four men in this quarter are all currently outside the cut off point for the Players Championship but Stephen Maguire at 18 has the best chance of forcing his way into that competition. Dave Gilbert is another who could get in with a big week while Jordan Brown has a bit more work to do even though he made the semi-final of the International Championship. The penultimate player in the field is Pang Junxu and he needs a big week to push for the Players Championship.
That top half of the draw looks a little too loaded to me so I’m going to take a couple of players in the bottom half of it this week with the first of those being Jack Lisowski. He has a terrible first round draw against Mark Allen but Allen hasn’t played well for a while and if the Lisowski which was in Macau and in the first round at The Masters shows up I think he can do some damage in that match and then the draw opens right up for him. Zhang Anda has had a great season but he hasn’t been in events of this magnitude too often and from there you feel Lisowski will be into the event. I think when his win does come it will be in a tournament like this where the early rounds are shorter sprints as he mentions regularly about his concentration. He wasn’t that made last week but I do think playing at The Masters is a positive here because those who weren’t there won’t have played a competitive match in a month. At 25/1 I’ll take Lisowski here.
Stephen Maguire didn’t play at The Masters but I’m ok with that where he is concerned because the only one in his quarter who did was Ronnie O’Sullivan and I’m far from convinced that we are going to see anything like his best in this tournament. If we don’t see his best then this quarter of the draw could quickly open right up and with Maguire having the chance to make the Players Championship with a decent week here I expect to see him bang on it. Maguire is way down at 34 in the world rankings but he would have a great chance to rise if he makes the Players Championship where only 16 players qualify and that is big as we begin to head towards Sheffield. Maguire has made a couple of quarter finals this season, losing out in deciding frames in both. I don’t think he’s far away from a huge return to form and at a bonkers 66/1 I’ll pay to see if that is this week.
Back J.Lisowski to win World Grand Prix (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Unibet (1/2 1-2)
Back S.Maguire to win World Grand Prix (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Unibet (1/2 1-2)