Ronnie O’Sullivan begins his latest quest for a record-equalling seventh World Championship title with a mouth-watering tie against David Gilbert at The Crucible.
O’Sullivan has claimed the World Grand Prix title this season and is back on top of the world rankings, having also reached the final of the European Masters in addition to a further two ranking Semi-Finals.
An ever-present at The Crucible since 1993, the 46-year-old is chasing down Stephen Hendry’s record tally of seven world titles but has been susceptible to an early exit in the sport’s show-piece in recent years, suffering Second Round defeats in 2018 and 2021 and a First Round loss in 2019, before going on to claim the title the following year.
The Rocket’s only First Round exit of this season came in last month’s Gibraltar Open, and he has reached at least the Quarter-Final stage of seven of the ten ranking events he has competed in.
O’Sullivan boasts a perfect head-to-head record against Gilbert with seven consecutive victories, including a First Round meeting here back in 2016, which ended 10-7.
Gilbert, the world number 19, thrashed Rory McLeod 6-1 and Anthony Hamilton 10-3 in last week’s qualifiers to seal his eighth World Championship appearance.
Championship League winner at the beginning of the season, Gilbert has also reached a further four ranking event Quarter-Finals this term and will have fond memories of his landmark run to the Last Four in Sheffield three years ago.
The 40-year-old, however, has suffered First Round exits in four of his seven previous Crucible campaigns and will be determined to register a long-awaited first win over O’Sullivan on the biggest stage of all.
The match gets under way from 2.30pm BST on Saturday April 16 for a maximum of nine frames, before resuming to a finish from 2.30pm on Sunday over the best of 19.
Either Northern Ireland Open winner Mark Allen or qualifier Scott Donaldson will await the winner in the Second Round.
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