Ronnie O’Sullivan and Luca Brecel face tricky opening matches at World Snooker Championship

O’Sullivan is gunning for a record eighth world title at the Crucible, while defending champion Brecel will aim to be the maiden first-time winner to successfully retain the crown

Luke Baker
Thursday 18 April 2024 11:27 BST
Luca Brecel will try to defend the title he won 12 months ago
Luca Brecel will try to defend the title he won 12 months ago (PA Wire)

Ronnie O’Sullivan will face emerging young talent Jackson Page and reigning champion Luca Brecel opens up against former semi-finalist David Gilbert as the first-round draw for the World Snooker Championship was revealed.

The sport’s best take to the green baize at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from Saturday, with the winner crowned on Monday 6 May. As is tradition, after blitzing his way to the title 12 months ago, the Belgian potter opens up the tournament on Saturday morning with the first-round encounter played to finish on Saturday evening. Silky-smooth potter Gilbert – who memorably reached the World Championship semi-finals in 2019, only to lose a thriller 17-16 to John Higgins – will provide a tough test for Brecel, who has struggled for form at times this season.

Seven-time world champion O’Sullivan begins his quest for an unprecedented eighth title of the modern era against 22-year-old Welshman Page, whose fearless potting has shades of last year’s champion Brecel and who impressively beat Barry Hawkins on his World Championship debut two years ago.

Last year’s runner-up Mark Selby will take on Joe O’Connor in all-Leicester encounter, while third seed Judd Trump will play Hossein Vafaei – who made headlines last year by launching an extraordinary verbal assault on O’Sullivan ahead of their encounter, only to lose 13-2 – and another mouthwatering first-round clash sees Ding Junhui play Jack Lisowski.

World No 3 Mark Allen, who faces the lowest-ranked player at the Crucible in world No 45 Robbie Williams, helped conduct the draw on BBC Five Live and picked out a couple of first-round highlights.

“There’s a couple of massive games there,” said Allen. “Luca [Brecel] vs [Dave] Gilbert to kick things off on Saturday.

“Ronnie [O’Sullivan] against Jackson [Page], who loves the big occasion. [Judd] Trump against [Hossein] Vafaei, Ding [Junhui] against [Jack] Lisowski is a ridiculous match for the first round as well.”

Hoseein Vafaei will take on Judd Trump in a fascinating first-round clash
Hoseein Vafaei will take on Judd Trump in a fascinating first-round clash (PA)

Some well-known faces will also be squaring off in the first round with a number of veterans who have been at the top of the game for a long time successfully coming through qualifying. Ryan Day faces 2013 finalist Barry Hawkins, while two-time finalist Ali Carter begins his campaign against tough Scot Stephen Maguire.

Meanwhile, three-time winner Mark Williams takes on Si Jiahui, who will try to emulate his brilliant run to the semi-finals last year, and four-time world champion Higgins was drawn against Jamie Jones, who stunningly upset Neil Robertson 10-9 in the final round of qualifying.

World Snooker Championship first-round draw

  • Luca Brecel vs David Gilbert
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Jackson Page
  • Judd Trump vs Hossein Vafaei
  • Mark Allen vs Robbie Williams
  • Mark Selby vs Joe O’Connor
  • Mark Williams vs Si Jiahui
  • Ding Junhui vs Jack Lisowski
  • Shaun Murphy vs Lyu Haotian
  • Ali Carter vs Stephen Maguire
  • Gary Wilson vs Stuart Bingham
  • Zhang Anda vs Jak Jones
  • Kyren Wilson vs Dominic Dale
  • John Higgins vs Jamie Jones
  • Tom Ford vs Ricky Walden
  • Barry Hawkins vs Ryan Day
  • Robert Milkins vs Pang Junxu

Additional reporting by PA

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