In a season where the majority of players have either been inconsistent or completely out of form, Ronnie O'Sullivan has proved his class once again with an impeccable campaign. With just the China Open to play before the World Championships next month, the Rocket has made seven finals in 13 tournaments, winning five of those.
Selby out early again, Higgins thrashed and Day's run comes to an end
The Players Championship offers an opportunity for the top 16 players of the season to build a run of momentum as they head towards the Crucible, whilst the seeding system of the competition provides an overview of how those players have performed across 2017/18.
Mark Selby's seeding of seven shows just how out of sorts the World Champion and current World number one has been this year. Unfortunately for the Jester of Leicester, his competition lasted just nine frames as the form player of the circuit in recent weeks, Ryan Day, secured a 12th successive victory after winning the Romanian Masters and Gibraltar Open.
Day was to see that run halted in the second round as he was defeated by compatriot Mark Williams, arguably the surprise package of the season. Whilst Williams has won the second most prize money this year, behind O'Sullivan of course, Neil Robertson has dwindled in 12th and was hammered 6-1 by Judd Trump in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, Anthony McGill was unfortunate to lose a decider to Shaun Murphy after defeating John Higgins for the first time in six attempts this season.
Murphy peaks too soon as O'Sullivan impresses again
O'Sullivan was quietly going about his business, seeing off Graeme Dott and Ding Junhui to reach the semi-finals. Yet he had to lean on all of his experience to defeat a determined Judd Trump.
The fourth best player of the season took 2-0, 4-3 and 5-4 advantages despite O'Sullivan contributing the highest break of the tournament with a 143 in frame four. Yet the Rocket drew level for the third time in frame ten before winning a decider with a composed 67 formulation.
On the other side of the draw, Murphy produced some excellent break-building that has been far too rare this year. He stormed into a 4-1 lead with breaks of 133, 70, 62, 117 and 88 against Williams. The Welsh veteran did produce a century of his own but it was not enough as he lost 6-3.
The number six seed took his confidence into the final, making 93 to win the first frame. Yet O'Sullivan was to close out four of the next five frames with a margin of less than 13 in three of those. Two of the next three successes then gave the favourite a 6-3 lead going into the interval against his rival.
Tactical ability had seen O'Sullivan establish a cushion but it was technical prowess that saw him over the line for title 33. Murphy made a 137 but the Rocket secured three half-century breaks to comfortably win 10-4 and announce himself as the man to beat at the Crucible.