O’Sullivan faces Gilbert in Crucible first round
Ronnie O’Sullivan begins his quest for a sixth snooker World Championship title against one-time potato farmer David Gilbert in Sheffield.
O’Sullivan is the bookmakers’ favourite to prevail at the Crucible after wins already this year at the Masters and Welsh Open.
Gilbert, his first round opponent, is enjoying the best season of his career and was a runner-up at the International Championship in China in November.
Defending Crucible champion Stuart Bingham begins his challenge with a tough opener against two-time beaten finalist Ali Carter.
Other highlights of Thursday’s first-round draw include the all-Scottish clash of Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus, Judd Trump’s match against Liang Wenbo and a repeat of last year’s quarter-final between Shaun Murphy and Anthony McGill.
Four-time champion John Higgins plays Ryan Day first, Mark Selby tackles Robert Milkins, while China’s former world number one Ding Junhui, who was widely considered the qualifier best avoided, was handed a tie against Martin Gould.
Former world champions Mark Williams and Graeme Dott go head to head.
The only debutant in this year’s tournament, Birmingham’s Mitchell Mann, will play former semi-finalist Mark Allen.
World Championship 1st rd draw:
Stuart Bingham v Ali Carter
Stephen Maguire v Alan McManus
Ricky Walden v Robbie Williams
John Higgins v Ryan Day
Judd Trump v Liang Wenbo
Martin Gould v Ding Junhui
Mark Williams v Graeme Dott
Neil Robertson v Michael Holt
Shaun Murphy v Anthony McGill
Marco Fu v Peter Ebdon
Barry Hawkins v Zhang Anda
Ronnie O’Sullivan v David Gilbert
Mark Allen v Mitchell Mann
Joe Perry v Kyren Wilson
Michael White v Sam Baird
Mark Selby v Robert Milkins