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Players Championship day one preview: Judd Trump headlines opening night in Telford

The 2024 Players Championship gets underway at the Telford International Centre on Monday with a pair of first-round matches, including Judd Trump's clash with Chris Wakelin.

Trump is the number one seed heading into this year's event as he sits top of the one-year money list after winning four titles already this season.

By contrast, fellow Englishman Wakelin only saw his place at the tournament assured on Sunday night after Martin O’Donnell, who would have qualified had he won the Welsh Open, was beaten in the final of that event by Gary Wilson.

Monday's other first-round match looks more difficult to call, with 2021 champion John Higgins set to face off against another former winner in Ding Junhui, who lifted the trophy in 2013 when the tournament was known as the Players Tour Championship Finals.

Rested Trump should prove too strong for Wakelin 

It has been another memorable season for world number two Trump, who after lifting three consecutive ranking titles in October, added a fourth with his victory at this month's German Masters.

Following that latest success in Berlin, the Ace in the Pack withdrew from last week's Welsh Open and he should, therefore, come into this event refreshed and raring to go.

Trump certainly knows all about performing at the Players Championship, as he has won the event twice before in 2017 and 2020, although he has suffered first-round exits on his three appearances at the tournament since the latter of those successes.

However, an early exit shouldn't be a concern for Trump this year as he is 1/7 to beat Wakelin, whose own preparations for the tournament cannot have been smooth seeing as he did not know if he would be playing in Telford until late Sunday night.

Squeaking in as the 16th seed, Wakelin is 9/2 to achieve something he has never done before, beat Trump, as all 12 of their previous meetings have been won by the 2019 world champion.

The most recent of those matchups was in this season's Northern Ireland Open final when Trump ran out a convincing 9-3 winner and there is value to be had in backing the top seed in the handicap market, as he is 11/10 to prosper in this best-of-11-frame contest with -3.5 handicap.

It is difficult to envisage anything other than a routine Trump success given that Wakelin's own form has tailed off significantly since the turn of the year, as he has been defeated in the first round of all three ranking-events he has featured in during 2024.

It is 7/1 that Trump wins this contest 6-0, a result that is certainly not beyond him.

Consistency the key for Higgins 

It is hard to believe that John Higgins has not lifted a ranking-event title since his 10-3 demolition of Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 2021 Players Championship final.

Since then, the Wizard of Wishaw has reached four finals without success, but he remains one of the more consistent players on the tour, which is why he sits 11th on the one-year money list.

This season Higgins has made it through to four ranking-event semi-finals, most recently at last week's Welsh Open where he was edged out 6-4 by eventual champion Wilson.

The 48-year-old surprisingly failed to qualify for last year's Players Championship, but he has one title and three quarter-final appearances to his name at the event in the last five years and he will fancy his chances of getting past Ding on Monday night at odds of 4/6.

Higgins leads the duo's head-to-head 16-14 and has won the last five meetings between the two, most recently triumphing 6-1 at the Champion Of Champions event in November.

Ding's last victory over Higgins came at the Northern Ireland Open in 2020 and like his Scottish opponent, it has been a while since he last lifted a ranking-event title - the 2019 UK Championship.

The Dragon did reach the final of this season's UK Championship - losing out to O'Sullivan - who also beat him in the semi-finals of last month's World Grand Prix.

However, Ding has blown hot and cold this season and, at his last two events, he lost in qualifying at the German Masters before being dumped out of the Welsh Open in the first round by Robbie Williams.

That kind of form won't serve Ding well in Telford and it is 6/5 that the Chinese star gets the better of Higgins, with the winner of Monday's clash set to face either third-seed Zhang Anda or Noppon Saengkham in the quarter-finals.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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