O’Sullivan faces home hope Stevens in Welsh Open encounter

Ronnie O’Sullivan will do battle on the baize with home favourite Matthew Stevens in their Welsh Open third round match-up, with ‘the Rocket’ having impressively overcome Rory McLeod to set-up this tantalising clash.

The reigning UK champion, 9/4 favourite for the competition with Coral, has a dominant head-to-head record over ‘the Welsh Dragon’, but Stevens is vying to topple the five-time world champion on home soil, having previously overcome O’Sullivan in England, Scotland and Ireland.

Welsh potter Stevens, 17/5 to win, has not tasted victory over ‘Rocket’ Ronnie since a 5-0 thrashing in the 2003 LG Cup, losing in their last nine meetings since.

Elsewhere, world number four Neil Robertson, odds-on 1/4 favourite, will clash with Jamie Cope in a repeat of the 2006 Grand Prix final.

Astute Australian cueist Robertson has already beaten his opponent before in this competition at the same stage in 2008. Cope was comprehensively defeated 5-1 in that meeting, with the former world champion available at 23/10 to win by four frames to one this time out.

‘The Shotgun’ Cope, 3/1 to cause an upset, will be aiming to claim his first ever win over the former triple crown champion, having lost in 10 of their 11 ever encounters.

Meanwhile, UK championship finalist Judd Trump, odds-on 1/6 favourite, will be tested by Michael Wasley in another tasty third round encounter.

Bristol’s ‘Ace in the Pack’ lost his only ever match-up with the Gloucester-born potter, and will once again be hoping to go far in another ranking event, having agonisingly lost to O’Sullivan in both the UK and Champion of Champions finals.

In other matches, Welshman and crowd favourite Mark Williams comes up against Jamie Jones, with the two-time world champion an odds-on 2/5 favourite to progress.

Northern Irishman Mark Allen, 18/1 to triumph in Wales, will hope to continue his impressive season so far, by toppling Ben Woollaston. ‘The Pistol’ has emerged victorious in all three of these two players’ meetings, with the last win coming in the German Masters last December.