Six former finalists and a brash 14-year-old who has described Judd Trump’s style as “clumsy” are among the 128 players who will begin the quest to reach this year’s World Snooker Championship on Tuesday.
Ukrainian Iulian Boiko, who will become the youngest ever player in the qualifiers, has already secured a two-year tour card and proclaimed his desire to emulate Ronnie O’Sullivan and become the dominant player of his era.
In an interview with Eurosport Russia last month, the 14-year-old praised reigning champion Trump but added: “I like the way Trump plays, I like his style of play, but the technique itself is quite clumsy.”
Other notable competitors in the qualifiers, which will take place amid strict social-distancing rules at the Institute of Sport in Sheffield, include former champions Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott, and former finalists Jimmy White, Ali Carter, Matthew Stevens and Nigel Bond.
White, who last reached the final stages of the tournament in 2006, starts against Russia’s Ivan Kakovsky and must win through four rounds if he is to book one of the 16 available slots at the age of 58.
Bond, now 54, reached the Crucible final in 1995 where he lost to Stephen Hendry, and has not given up hope of making it back to the famous venue for the first time since 2009.
Bond told the PA news agency: “My motivation is that I still love the game, and I’ve always said I would just like one more opportunity to walk out there.
“At the end of the day not many people can say they’ve been in a world final and it was massive in raising my profile. I’ve got to be satisfied with my career but I still think to myself that in a way I’ve under-achieved.”
Bond showed signs of a spectacular career resurgence last year when he beat Trump en route to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship.
The Chesterfield player, who is chief coach at Ding Junhui’s new snooker centre in Sheffield, faces a tough task to reach the Crucible, with world number 30 Lyu Haotian among those standing in his way.
In his 31st year as a professional, Bond added: “The thing that I’m quite proud of is the fact that I’ve never had to rely on a wildcard to keep on the tour despite sometimes surviving by the skin of my teeth.
“You lose a bit of concentration as you get older but if I’m feeling good and switched on I still feel like I’m capable of beating anybody and last year at the UK Championships I proved it.”
Reigning women’s world champion Reanne Evans starts her campaign against the 1995 Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks, who is aiming to reach the Crucible for the first time since 2007.