Mark Selby looks to avoid an upset when he faces Reanne Evans in the opening round of the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday.
The pair are facing off for the second time in as many months, having gone head to head in the inaugural World Mixed Doubles three weeks ago alongside Rebecca Kenna and Ronnie O’Sullivan respectively.
Selby and Kenna prevailed 3-1 that day on the way to reaching the final, where they eventually succumbed to an inspired Neil Robertson and Mink Nutcharut.
Following a difficult 2021-22 season, the four-time World champion has momentum after a run to the British Open quarter-finals, during which he produced a magnificent maximum break in his fourth-round clash with Jack Lisowski.
A Northern Ireland Open semi-finalist in 2018, the Jester is the joint second-most successful player in the Home Nations Series having collected three titles (level with Neil Robertson), with only Judd Trump (four) landing more such silverware.
Following Zhao Xintong’s surprise 4-1 defeat by Lyu Haotian, Selby will be desperate not to join the Cyclone in falling at the first hurdle.
Evans poses the challenge as she targets her first victory on the men’s tour since beating Robin Hull 10-8 in the 2017 World Championship qualifiers.
The 12-time World Women’s champion came close to shocking Mark Allen at last season’s British Open, and she will hope to go one better here.
It would certainly kickstart the season for the world number 114, who has won only four of the 25 frames she has played so far – including just one of the last 17.
The winner of this match will play Sam Craigie in the last 64 of the Northern Ireland Open.
Play gets underway at around 2pm BST on Sunday and the match will be contested over the best of seven frames at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
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