Two titans of the modern game renew their rivalry on snooker’s greatest stage as Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Mark Selby in a mouth-watering World Championship Semi-Final.
With eight world titles and 53 ranking titles between them, the pair are two of the most successful players of the last two decades and have formed a fascinating rivalry on the table.
The rivalry can be attributed to their distinct contrast in styles, with the brisk, attack-minded O’Sullivan countered by the astute, methodical Selby.
The match signals a repeat of the 2014 World Championship final which Selby won 18-14 to claim his first world title, having also beaten O’Sullivan in the Quarter-Finals at The Crucible a decade ago.
O’Sullivan is appearing in his first Semi-Final here since his defeat to Selby six years ago and looks to have taken a more relaxed approach to this marathon tournament in the absence of a crowd.
He sent out an emphatic message by thrashing Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-1 in the fastest match in the history of the tournament, before overcoming 2016 finalist Ding Junhui 13-10 in a thrilling Last 16 contest.
O’Sullivan then recovered from 7-2 down to deny three-time champion Mark Williams 13-10 with five centuries to his name.
Back-to-back winner in 2012 and 2013, O’Sullivan is out to pick up what would be a record-breaking 37th career ranking title and remain in pursuit of Stephen Hendry’s record tally of seven world titles.
Selby has been the most successful player in the tournament over the past decade, claiming glory in three of his last six World Championship appearances.
The former world number one had suffered First and Second round exits in his last two outings to the sport’s spiritual home but returned on the back of a fine season which has seen him claim two ranking titles.
He was below his best in Round One and Two but dug deep in trademark fashion to fend off the challenge of debutant Jordan Brown (10-6) and Thai qualifier Noppon Saengkham in a nail-biting 25th frame decider.
Selby then raised his game accordingly to knock out 2010 champion Neil Robertson with a commanding 13-7 scoreline in the Quarter-Finals.
He has lost just one of his five previous Semi-Finals in Sheffield, typically relishing the one-table setup and the four-session format.
O’Sullivan has won 15 and drawn one of their 26 previous meetings dating back to 2002, including a 5-1 rout in the Quarter-Finals of this year’s Welsh Open.
However, it’s Selby who has enjoyed the lion’s share of success in their multiple session matches and ‘The Rocket’ faces a tough mental test against a player he once nicknamed ‘The Torturer’.
Their best of 33 frame encounter gets underway from 7pm BST on Wednesday for a total of eight frames, resuming at 2.30pm on Thursday before being played to a finish from 10am and 7pm on Friday.
Either world number eight Kyren Wilson or multiple ranking event winner Anthony McGill will await the winner in the weekend’s final.