Mark Joyce earns Crucible showpiece against Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan will open the defence of his Betfred World Snooker Championship title on Saturday against debutant Mark Joyce at the Crucible.

Champion - Ronnie O'Sullivan (Picture: PA)

Veteran Joyce, 37, turned professional in 2006, but had never previously made it through to the showpiece tournament, securing his place with victory over Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo in the last qualifying round.

Elsewhere, in Thursday’s draw, former champion Stuart Bingham, another who came through qualifying, will meet Sheffield-based Ding Junhui, while world No 1 Judd Trump plays Liam Highfield.

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Australian Neil Robertson is viewed as a leading contender to win a second world title following an impressive campaign so far – beating O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship final – and will take on Liang Wenbo.

Contender - Neil Robertson (Picture: Dave Howarth/PA Wire)

Three-time former champion Mark Selby, this year’s fourth seed, has a first-round match against Kurt Maflin, while 2020 runner-up Kyren Wilson meets Gary Wilson, a former semi-finalist.

Debutant Sam Craigie faces three-time former champion Mark Williams and veteran John Higgins plays Tian Pengfei as he begins the quest for a fifth world crown. Masters champion Yan Bingtao faces qualifier Martin Gould, Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen plays Lyu Haotian and Ricky Walden will play 16th seed Anthony McGill.

Two-time finalist Ali Carter comes up against Jack Lisowski, while Barry Hawkins meets Matthew Selt and David Gilbert will take on Chris Wakelin.

Veteran Mark Davis came through qualifying to reach the Crucible for the 12th time in his career and plays Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion, in the first round.

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