Ronnie O’Sullivan begins his World Grand Prix title defence against Barry Hawkins in a mouth-watering tie in Cheltenham on Tuesday.
O’Sullivan triumphed in the most recent staging of this event in December 2021 to claim the title for the second time and is targeting his first ranking silverware of the season.
The Rocket heads to The Centaur as the number 21 on the one-year ranking list and looking to bounce back from last week’s Quarter-Final defeat to Mark Williams at The Masters.
O’Sullivan, who claimed a record-equalling seventh world title at The Crucible last year, has picked up the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions trophies this season but has not been beyond the Quarter-Final stage of a ranking tournament.
He is situated in a formidable section of the draw this week and starts out with a clash against former champion and fellow top 16 star Hawkins.
Hawkins scooped the most recent of his three ranking titles at this event in 2017 but is bidding to avoid a third First Round exit in his last four appearances.
The former World Championship and Masters runner-up was also beaten in the final of the European Masters earlier this season and was narrowly denied by eventual champion Judd Trump in the Last Eight at Ally Pally last week.
O’Sullivan boasts a prolific head-to-head record with 15 wins from their 17 previous meetings stretching back to 2002, with Hawkins’ last success coming in the Last 16 of the 2016 World Championship.
Since then, O’Sullivan has won six in a row, including the 2018 Shanghai Masters final and back-to-back Semi-Finals at the Players Championship and Tour Championship in 2021.
The match gets under way from 7pm GMT and will be contested over the best of seven frames, with either Mark Selby or Noppon Saengkham awaiting the winner in the Second Round.
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