Ronnie O’Sullivan launches his latest quest for an eighth UK Championship title when he faces Matthew Stevens at the York Barbican on Monday.
The Rocket is the most successful player in the history of snooker’s second-most prestigious invitational event, with his most recent triumph coming four years ago.
That came after a hugely impressive streak of 27 victories from 28 matches at the tournament, which he first won as a 17-year-old following a 10-6 win over Stephen Hendry in the 1993 final.
Fast forward 29 years and O’Sullivan is now seeking a 22nd Triple Crown title and his third silverware of the campaign, having already captured the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions.
You must go back to a 9-6 reverse against Stuart Bingham in 2010 for his most recent last-32 defeat at the UK Championship, where he is set to face 2003 winner Stevens for the fourth time.
The Rocket prevailed 6-2 when they faced off in 2009 and 2016, with the Welshman prevailing 9-3 in the 1999 quarter-finals.
Stevens boasts an impressive record in this major, which he captured 19 years ago with a 10-8 victory over Hendry.
The 45-year-old was also runner-up in 1998 and 1999 to John Higgins and Mark Williams respectively, as well as reaching a further semi-final and three quarter-finals – his most recent appearance coming three years ago.
Stevens won three matches to secure his place in the main draw. After defeating three-time women’s world champion Ng On Yee and former European Masters winner Fan Zhengyi, he survived a huge scare against Wu Yize.
Having stormed into a 4-0 lead, the Welshman was pegged back to trail 5-4 against the rising Chinese star, but held his nerve to recover and prevail in a decider.
The winner of this match will play either Yan Bingtao or Zhou Yuelong in the UK Championship last 16.
Play gets underway at 1pm GMT on Monday with the match contested over the best of 11 frames at the York Barbican.
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