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Ronnie O’Sullivan v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh: World Snooker Championship preview – Rapid-fire cueists collide at The Crucible

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O’Sullivan aims to mount a title charge (Photo by ChinaImages/PA Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan launches his quest for an elusive sixth world title with a mouth-watering clash against Thai star Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in Round One at The Crucible.

The two fastest players on the professional circuit lock horns in arguably the pick of the First Round ties as Un-Nooh looks to send shockwaves through the field.

Un-Nooh will be cursing the ‘luck’ of the draw once again, having drawn John Higgins on debut in 2018 before facing eventual champion Judd Trump 12 months ago.

However, he has given a fine account of himself in both outings, going down 10-7 to Higgins and 10-9 to Trump – a match which saw him squander a 6-3 lead.

The Thai number one, now ranked 20th on the main order of merit, will fancy his chances of subjecting O’Sullivan to another early exit at the sport’s spiritual home to create a slice of personal history.

O’Sullivan’s recent relationship with this event remains an indifferent one, having failed to progress beyond the Last 16 stage in three of his last four attempts.

Back-to-back winner in 2012 and 2013, keen runner O’Sullivan returns hoping to stay the distance in this marathon of the mind and pick up what would be a record-breaking 37th career ranking title.

His most recent ranking title came at the 2019 Tour Championship, though he did go on to claim the Shanghai Masters crown later in the year.

O’Sullivan has reached one ranking final in seven attempts this season, finishing runner-up to rival Judd Trump in the Northern Ireland Open.

The 44-year-old is incredibly making his 28th consecutive Crucible appearance and will be determined to banish last year’s shock First Round exit at the hands of rank outsider James Cahill.

Un-Nooh reached his first ranking final earlier this season at the World Open and has gone on to reach a further three ranking event Quarter-Finals.

He has won the only previous meeting between the pair 5-4 in the opening round of the 2014 German Masters.

With an average shot time of 16.80 seconds, O’Sullivan is just one tenth of a second faster than Un-Nooh at the top of the season shot time standings.

This promises to be an enthralling, quick-fire show-down, with both prolific scorers and capable of producing a flurry of centuries over this format.

The match gets underway from 2.30pm BST on Sunday for a total of nine frames, before resuming to a finish over the best of 19 from 10am on Monday.

Reigning UK Champion and 2016 world finalist Ding Junhui awaits the winner in the Last 16 after he edged out Mark King in a last-frame thriller.