Phil Haigh ✍️
The draw for the World Snooker Championship has been made and there are some blockbuster ties to look forward to in the very first round at the Crucible, although the players involved are not necessarily thrilled.
The action gets underway on Saturday morning when Mark Selby will begin the defence of his title against dangerous Welshman Jamie Jones and UK champion Zhao Xintong meets Jamie Clarke, who can be described in the same terms as Jones.
Saturday evening sees the start of one of the ties of the round as Shaun Murphy meets Stephen Maguire, with the Scot having to come through qualifying after dropping down the rankings.
Murphy, who reached last year’s final in spectacular style, knew he could have been handed a much more favourable draw than Maguire and simply tweeted: ‘Stinker.’
Before the draw was made, Murphy’s pal Mark Allen warned: ‘The one to avoid for me personally is Maguire. All tough games nowadays…. No byes to quarter finals in this era.’
Ronnie O’Sullivan also begins his campaign on the opening day in a tasty clash with Dave Gilbert, which former world champ John Parrott described as ‘one to watch’ but quickly turned his attention to arguably the tie of the round.
Ding Junhui had to qualify for the Crucible after a quiet couple of years and no one wanted to draw the 14-time ranking event winner, but someone had to and that someone was Kyren Wilson.
The Warrior reached the final in 2020 and has an excellent record in Sheffield, now Parrott cannot wait to see the clash between him and the Chinese superstar.
‘It’s a great start on the first afternoon, it’s going to be one to watch,’ JP said of O’Sullivan vs Gilbert.
‘But it’s remiss not to mention the other one…Kyren Wilson against Ding Junhui, that is an absolute belting first round match as well.
‘Ding’s come through there, he’s capable of winning a World Championship, it’s not quite happened, but he’s got a real tough start with Kyren Wilson.’
Mark Selby vs Jamie Jones
Yan Bingtao vs Chris Wakelin
Barry Hawkins vs Jackson Page
Mark Williams vs Michael White
Kyren Wilson vs Ding Junhui
Stuart Bingham vs Lyu Haotian
Anthony McGill vs Liam Highfield
Judd Trump vs Hossein Vafaei
Neil Robertson vs Ashley Hugill
Jack Lisowski vs Matthew Stevens
Luca Brecel vs Noppon Saengkham
John Higgins vs Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Zhao Xintong vs Jamie Clarke
Shaun Murphy vs Stephen Maguire
Mark Allen vs Scott Donaldson
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs David Gilbert
The Gilbert vs O’Sullivan match is somewhat ironic as the Farmer was open on Wednesday night that he wanted to avoid the Rocket.
A former semi-finalist, Gilbert was not a player any of the seeds would want to play, but he was honest in his assessment that there were stars he did not want to see twinkling across from him at the Crucible.
‘All these players saying they want Judd, Ronnie, they’re talking rubbish,’ Gilbert told WST after beating Anthony Hamilton in qualifying. ‘I want to avoid Judd, Ronnie, Robbo and Selby. They’re the big four.
‘One of them is likely to win it. If I can avoid one of them four…I ain’t taking anything away from any of the other guys, but I’ll be honest and say it how it is.’
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