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Selby the man to beat with Allen among main threats


By Robert Jones

Mark Selby will launch his Betfred World Championship title defence against Dubliner Fergal O'Brien tomorrow while Antrim's Mark Allen opens against Jimmy Robertson on Sunday and Monday, both sessions at 7.00pm.

After winning the world title in 2014 and 2016, and sitting at the top of the world rankings, Selby will be difficult to stop, although Allen is one of a group of players who will fancy their chances of lifting the big prize.

The 33-year-old from Leicester also won the China Open at the start of this month, and looks in good shape to become the first player to follow up that title with Crucible glory.

In O'Brien he faces a player who was part of a world record on Wednesday night when he won the longest frame in the history of professional snooker, taking two hours, three minutes and 41 seconds to win a decider against David Gilbert to book his place in the main draw.

Their match will begin at 10am tomorrow, with the champion playing first in accordance with tradition as the £1.9million tournament gets under way.

Ronnie O'Sullivan last landed the title when achieving back-to-back successes in 2012 and 2013, and the five-time winner will face Wallsend cueman Gary Wilson, one of five debutants.

Chinese 17-year-old Yan Bingtao is expected to have a big future in the sport and will tackle 2005 champion Shaun Murphy.

Zhou Yuelong, 19, makes his first appearance in an all-Chinese clash with last year's runner-up Ding Junhui.

Draw: Mark Selby v Fergal O'Brien, Ryan Day v Xiao Guodong, Neil Robertson v Noppon Saengkham, Marco Fu v Luca Brecel, Shaun Murphy v Yan Bingtao, Ronnie O'Sullivan v Gary Wilson, Liang Wenbo v Stuart Carrington, Ding Junhui v Zhou Yuelong, Stuart Bingham v Peter Ebdon, Kyren Wilson v David Grace, Mark Allen v Jimmy Robertson, John Higgins v Martin Gould, Barry Hawkins v Tom Ford, Ali Carter v Graeme Dott, Anthony McGill v Stephen Maguire, Judd Trump v Rory McLeod

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