Red-hot favourite Neil Robertson launches his latest quest for a second World title against debutant Ashley Hugill in Sheffield on Monday.
The Australian is aiming to become first multiple overseas winner of snooker’s blue-riband event – 12 years after sealing his maiden crown.
Robertson has certainly never headed to the Crucible in better shape, having already landed four trophies this season – his best silverware haul during a single campaign.
The Thunder opened his account at the English Open back in November, while he has also captured the Masters, Players Championship and Tour Championship since the turn of the year.
But aside from his 2010 triumph, the world number three boasts a generally modest record at the Crucible; only reaching the single-table setup on one other occasion in 2014.
Nevertheless, Robertson – a quarter-finalist in each of the last three years – will be a heavy favourite to overcome debutant Hugill.
The world number 77 is set to make his Crucible bow after beating Dean Young, Martin Gould and Joe O’Connor during the qualifying stages at the English Institute of Sport.
Hugill practises at the highly renowned Victoria Snooker Academy in Sheffield – the same base as the likes of Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Fan Zhengyi.
And the York cueist will hope that a similar level of success is not too far away, with a shock victory here certain to provide a huge confidence booster at the very least.
Jack Lisowski or two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens awaits the winner in the second round at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
Play gets underway at 2.30pm BST on Monday with the opening nine frames, while a maximum of 10 will commence from 10am on Tuesday.
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