Stage is set for another Crucible classic

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s rookie World Championship opponent fears Crucible humiliation before he even plays his first shot against the five-time winner.

Manchester potter Craig Steadman will make his debut at the age of 32, making him a relative latecomer to snooker’s grandest stage.

The worry for Steadman is that years of dreaming of his big moment will turn to torment from the very moment he makes it into the arena.

“When you get to the Crucible, I’ve heard horror stories about walking down the stairs and your legs start crumbling,” he said.

Once it comes to potting balls though, Steadman should be finely tuned, having won three qualifying matches to earn his moment in the spotlight.

World title favourite O’Sullivan has not played a competitive match since losing to Judd Trump on March 22 in the final of the World Grand Prix.

Steadman said: “I didn’t care who I played having got there for the first time.

“But obviously it will be a great occasion playing Ronnie and I am glad not to play until next week after three tough qualifiers.

“I’m sure a few people will be coming out of the woodwork now asking for tickets. I have played on TV a few times but nothing to compare with Ronnie at the Crucible.

“It has taken me a long time to get there, I must be a slow learner. Before this I was best known for knocking Steve Davis off the tour last year.

“I felt terrible about that, it wasn’t the nicest feeling as the bloke is a legend – but he’s won plenty so I’m sure he forgave me.”

Steadman will have until Tuesday to sweat over the prospect of tackling O’Sullivan.

He visited the theatre to watch his friend Nick Dyson play Ken Doherty in 2001, but said: “I told myself I’d never go again unless I was playing there. Last year I won a couple of qualifying matches before losing to Dechawat Poomjaeng, but my sponsor wanted to go to the Crucible.

“So I sulked a little after my defeat and then I said, ’Right, we’ll go for the day’, and I watched about five minutes before I walked straight back out and sat in the players’ lounge.

“As a snooker player it’s not nice to sit there watching when you could be playing.

“You’ve got to earn a right to be there and I’ve done that now and it’s brilliant.”

Defending champion Mark Selby, who beat O’Sullivan in last year’s final, will tackle another Crucible debutant, as he gets his campaign under way tomorrow.

Selby will tackle Norway’s Kurt Maflin, who came through 10-9 in the final qualifying round against Irish veteran Fergal O’Brien on Wednesday night.

London-based Maflin, 31, is undaunted by snooker’s elite and vowed his preparation would not change.

“Ronnie’s great, Selby’s great, and there’s a lot of good players there, but I won’t treat them any differently,” Maflin said.

“If my game is as good as it can be, I think that’ll be enough to get through.”

Judd Trump faces another tournament newcomer in Grimsby’s Stuart Carrington, a player he faced frequently in the junior ranks.

The fourth Crucible novice this year is Scotland’s Anthony McGill, who goes head to head with fellow Glaswegian Stephen Maguire in round one.

Scottish players have scooped 12 of the last 25 Crucible titles, and 24-year-old McGill has been tipped to become the next great player from north of the border.

McGill is relishing that tussle, which will take place over tomrrow and Sunday, saying: “It’s a great achievement, just getting to the Crucible.

“I don’t rate myself anywhere near the same class as the Scottish guys that have gone before me. I’m just trying to get the best out of me.

“I went into the Crucible on Wednesday to have a look and I couldn’t believe how small it looks. It looks like a place where when things are going wrong you’d rather be anywhere but there, but when things are going right it looks good, so fingers crossed.”

Masters champion Shaun Murphy takes on Finland’s Robin Hull, while the all-Welsh clash between Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens is a repeat of the line-up for the 2000 final, as they play for the right to take on O’Sullivan or Steadman in the second round.

Betfred World Championship first-round draw:

Mark Selby v Kurt Maflin

Stephen Maguire v Anthony McGill

Joe Perry v Zhang Anda

Shaun Murphy v Robin Hull

Barry Hawkins v Matthew Selt

Mark Allen v Ryan Day

Ali Carter v Alan McManus

Neil Robertson v Jamie Jones

Ding Junhui v Mark Davis

John Higgins v Robert Milkins

Marco Fu v Jimmy Robertson

Judd Trump v Stuart Carrington

Ricky Walden v Graeme Dott

Stuart Bingham v Robbie Williams

Mark Williams v Matthew Stevens

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Craig Steadman

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