Tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan will finally begin his bid for a third 888.com World Championship crown in Sheffield today.
O’Sullivan faces 17-year-old Chinese qualifier Liu Chuang in the first round on the fifth day of action at the Crucible.
The 2001 and 2004 winner has won one tournament this season and made two other finals, but hit the headlines for the wrong reasons for his lewd remarks during a press conference at the recent China Open in Beijing.
O’Sullivan belatedly apologised for his behaviour via a newspaper interview last Saturday, but still faces disciplinary action from the sport’s governing body, World Snooker.
Three more former champions are in action on Wednesday, Ken Doherty also up against a Chinese qualifier in Liang Wenbo and Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott completing their matches with Dave Harold and Joe Perry respectively.
Murphy cruised into a 7-2 lead over Stoke’s Harold but Dott, playing here despite being diagnosed with depression, trails Perry 5-4.
Last year’s beaten finalist, Leicester’s Mark Selby, is out already however, the Masters champion beaten 10-8 by Mark King in the first shock result of the tournament.
Selby was second favourite behind O’Sullivan but the 24-year-old saw his 5-4 overnight lead quickly wiped out and King held his nerve to complete a surprise victory.
“It’s a little bit disappointing but I don’t think over the two days I’ve really performed,” admitted Selby. “Take nothing away from Mark, every time he got a chance he punished me.
“Over the two days I think he was the better player and deserved to win. I’ve had a great season and won two tournaments so I can’t complain, but obviously it’s a shame not to be able to come back here and do well.
“I knew what I was capable of and the only pressure is what you put on yourself. Whatever anyone else says about being favourite is neither here nor there.”
King, who knocked Jimmy White out of the qualifiers, said: “The first couple of tournaments this season I couldn’t make 20 but I’ve been working with Chris Archer on my technique it’s all coming together now.
“It’s pleasing to go out there and play really solid for once. When I got a chance I punished him. In the final frame my heart was going 700mph but I told myself if I stayed still on the shot I wouldn’t miss anything easy.”
China’s Ding Junhui advanced to a second-round clash with seven-time champion Stephen Hendry by winning a high quality encounter with Marco Fu in the final frame last night.
Ding led 5-1 at one stage but Fu staged a superb fightback to lead 7-6 as the pair traded high breaks. Ding went back in front with breaks of 97 and 114 but Grand Prix winner Fu forced a decider with a run of 72.
Former UK Champion Ding held his nerve in the decider with a break of 76 – the 12th fifty-plus break of the match – to seal a 10-9 win