The draw for the opening round of the 2021 World Snooker Championship has been confirmed, with Ronnie O’Sullivan to face debutant Mark Joyce.
The annual snooker show-piece features the world’s top 16 ranked players alongside a further 16 qualifiers as they battle it out for £2.4 million in prize money from April 17 to May 3.
A host of decorated stars and exciting emerging talents lock horns at the sport’s spiritual home for the 45th consecutive staging in Sheffield.
A limited capacity crowd will be present inside the iconic venue for the opening fortnight, before the potential for a full capacity for the final.
O’Sullivan is bidding to equal Stephen Hendry’s record tally of seven world titles by successfully retaining the title for the second time, having initially done so in 2012/2013.
The Rocket is the number one seed, but has not picked up a ranking title this season and start out against Joyce – one of two newcomers in this year’s event.
Joyce, who turned professional in 2006, ended his 15-year wait for a maiden Crucible appearance by coming through the qualifying rounds earlier in the week.
World number one Judd Trump, situated in the opposite half of the draw to rival O’Sullivan, has been drawn to face Liam Highfield – a player making his second Crucible appearance.
Kyren Wilson, last year’s runner-up, will take on 2019 semi-finalist Gary Wilson in another stand-out tie, while 2016 world finalist Ding Junhui faces 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham.
Four-time World Champion John Higgins will take on China’s Tian Pengfei, while reigning UK Champion Neil Robertson comes up against another Chinese star in Liang Wenbo.
Three-time World Champion Mark Williams will take on Newcastle debutant Sam Craigie, while 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy faces veteran Mark Davis.
Three-time World Champion Mark Selby, who lost out in an incredible deciding frame Semi-Final last year, opens up with a clash against Norway’s Kurt Maflin – who enjoyed a terrific run to the Quarter-Finals last time out.
Former Tour Championship winner Stephen Maguire takes on 2012 quarter-finalist Jamie Jones, while last year’s semi-finalist Anthony McGill meets the returning Ricky Walden.
Champion of Champions winner Mark Allen takes on Chinese youngster Lyu Haotian, as number 14 seed Jack Lisowski comes up against two-time world finalist Ali Carter.
Barry Hawkins, runner-up in 2013, takes on Matthew Selt – making his first Crucible appearance for six years.
Reigning Masters champion Yan Bingtao has been drawn to face the vastly experienced Martin Gould, while 2019 semi-finalist David Gilbert takes on in-form qualifier Chris Wakelin.
The full schedule of play will be confirmed in due course.
World Snooker Championship 2021 Draw
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Mark Joyce
Anthony McGill (16) v Ricky Walden
Ding Junhui (9) v Stuart Bingham
Stephen Maguire (8) v Jamie Jones
John Higgins (5) v Tian Pengfei
Mark Williams (12) v Sam Craigie
Mark Allen (13) v Lyu Haotian
Mark Selby (4) v Kurt Maflin
Neil Robertson (3) v Liang Wenbo
Jack Lisowski (14) v Ali Carter
Barry Hawkins (11) v Matt Selt
Kyren Wilson (6) v Gary Wilson
Shaun Murphy (7) v Mark Davis
Yan Bingtao (10) v Martin Gould
David Gilbert (15) v Chris Wakelin
Judd Trump (2) v Liam Highfield