Ronnie O’Sullivan aims to safeguard his spot in the 2017 Shanghai Masters by overcoming rank outsider Christopher Keogan in the qualifying round in Wigan on Friday.
O’Sullivan, the 2009 Shanghai champion, headlines the afternoon’s action as he bids to avert what would be a monumental upset if ranking positions and current form are anything to go by.
Five-time World Champion O’Sullivan recently qualified for the International Championship and is aiming to book a third trip to China this season by brushing aside the world number 103 – who has failed to win a match since the Riga Masters back in June.
O’Sullivan’s lack of regular involvement in ranking events so far this season has seen him slip to twelfth in the latest world rankings, but the reigning Masters champion has the opportunity to address the balance in the coming months.
He has been vocal in his criticism of some lower-ranked professionals on social media in recent weeks, something which Keogan may use as motivation in what is one of the most high-profile games of his young career to date.
Keogan, 25, earned a two-year Tour Card at Qualifying School in 2016 but has since struggled for results on the circuit, notably defeating Alan McManus en route to the Second Round of last year’s Welsh Open.
Keogan has experience of taking on some of the sport’s biggest names already this season, having lost out to the likes of Mark Williams, Luca Brecel and Mark King.
This will be the first competitive meeting between the two players and one which sees ‘The Rocket’ start out as overwhelming favourite to progress.
The match gets underway from 2.30pm BST and will be contested over the best of nine frames at The Robin Park Sports Centre in Wigan.