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Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Ronnie O'Sullivan handed tricky World Championship tie

Ronnie O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan won his third world championship title in 2008

Three-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has been handed a tricky tie against China's Liang Wenbo in the first round of the World Championship.

Seven-time champion Stephen Hendry is also paired with a rising Chinese star, Crucible debutant Anda Zhang, 18.

Defending champion John Higgins gets the tournament under way on 17 April against Barry Hawkins.

Steve Davis, who has won the title on six occasions, starts his 30th campaign in Sheffield against Mark King.

Photos (on flickr) from the draw

"The last two names in the hat were King and Higgins which was quite strange," Davis added. "Mark will be delighted he's playing me and not one of the younger players."

New snooker chief Barry Hearn told BBC Sport that Davis v King was his draw of the round for personal reasons.

"It's an all-Romford clash which is hilarious and nice," Hearn said.

The 52-year-old Davis, who won all six of his world championships in the 1980s with his last coming in 1989, said: "I baulk at being happy because I know how hard it is at the Crucible.

"It's not so much about who you play as how you play and you can talk yourself into one player being easier than another, but there are certain players you'd be happy to avoid so once you've avoided them you can't be displeased."

The 'Nugget', whose provisional ranking for next season has dropped to 27, is looking forward to seeing matches involving two of the three Chinese players in the last 32.

"From the point of view of excitement it's about the Chinese players," he said.


"We don't know what Liang is capable of but I don't suppose he's too happy, although I don't imagine Ronnie will be absolutely delighted to play a player who is on the up.

"We also have an unknown quantity in 18-year-old Zhang who has drawn the most established player at the Crucible in Stephen Hendry.

"That's a fascinating match and Hendry will want to get through to prove he's still got a future.

"But he's got a player he's probably never seen before and he certainly wouldn't know him if he walked past him in the street.

"We don't know what he's capable of but Stephen has got to go out and justify his existence as a snooker player."

The clash between the favourite O'Sullivan and Wenbo, who has jumped into the top 16 in the provisional rankings, should be an intriguing encounter.

John Higgins
Higgins beat Shaun Murphy 18-9 to win the 2009 title

The 'Rocket' defeated Wenbo in the 2008 quarter-finals 13-7 when the Chinese star was making his Crucible debut and Hearn warned it is a tough draw for the current number one.

"All the Chinese players have tough games but there's potential for some shocks. It's a nightmare for Hendry while Ronnie will have to bring his A game," he added.

China's third player in the tournament and provisionally ranked seven, Ding Junhui, will face England's Stuart Pettman.

Other notable matches include this year's Masters champion Mark Selby beginning his quest against 1997 champion Ken Doherty, while the 2002 world champion Peter Ebdon takes on the 2006 winner Graeme Dott.

That clash will stir memories of their epic battle in the 2006 final, when the Scot eventually triumphed 18-14 at 0052 - the latest ever finish to a Crucible final.

This year's World Championship takes place from 17 April to 3 May in Sheffield.

Full draw:

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins

Mark King v Steve Davis

Neil Robertson v Fergal O'Brien

Marco Fu v Martin Gould

Ali Carter v Jamie Cope

Joe Perry v Michael Holt

Ding Junhui v Stuart Pettman

Shaun Murphy v Gerrard Greene

Stephen Maguire v Stephen Lee

Peter Ebdon v Graeme Dott

Mark Allen v Tom Ford

Ryan Day v Mark Davis

Mark Selby v Ken Doherty

Stephen Hendry v Anda Zhang

Mark Williams v Marcus Campbell

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Liang Wenbo

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see also
Dott and Lee grab Crucible spots
09 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Doherty secures place at Crucible
08 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Davis victory earns Crucible spot
07 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Doherty ends White's Crucible bid
04 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Parrott looks set to quit snooker
04 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Snooker's bruising battleground
04 Mar 10 |  Snooker
World Championship qualifying results
09 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Higgins earns third world crown
04 May 09 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker

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