World Champion Mark Selby sets sights on ending Crucible curse
Reigning World Snooker Champion Mark Selby will begin the defence of his coveted crown against Norwegian potter Kurt Maflin, as he aims to end the Crucible curse.
‘The Jester from Leicester’ impressively won his maiden world title 12 months ago in the famous Sheffield setting, and will be hoping to become the first player since the tournament’s switch to the Crucible in 1977 to successfully defend his crown, with no first-time champion ever having done so.
Selby is 4/1 with Coral to reach a second consecutive Crucible final this year, with the clinical cueist claiming he is unable to take his mind off the daunting task ahead in Yorkshire.
“The record speaks for itself. It is in the back of my mind, you can’t take that away. I feel I’m confident enough and have just won my last tournament so I feel ready to defend it,” said Selby.
“Just to win it once as I did last year was a fantastic achievement for me but to win it twice and break the curse would be outstanding.
“I also heard that no-one has ever won the China Open and then gone on to win the World Championship so you could say there are two records.”
World Championship newcomer Maflin is standing in Selby’s way first up, with the 31-year-old, who has made two maximum breaks during his professional career and beat ‘the Jester’ last year, available at 7/2 to cause an upset and continue the Crucible’s long standing curse.
Meanwhile, 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott faces 2013 semi-finalist Ricky Walden and feisty Scot Stephen Maguire contests fellow countryman Anthony McGill.
‘Pocket Dynamo’ Dott toppled ‘the Walnut’ in the two players’ last meeting in 2011 and will be confident of overcoming his astute opposition again.
With a substantial Scottish contingency set for the Crucible, it is a 20/1 chance for the world crown to be lifted by a Scot this year, after 12 of the previous 25 competitions ending with Scottish victories.
‘On-Fire’ Maguire, a five-time major ranking title winner, is a prolific break builder, having made over 250 career centuries and a double of magnificent maximums and he is 25/1 to knock in the highest break of the tournament. Although, his opponent McGill is capable of shocking ‘the Livewire’, having been heavily tipped to make a huge impact on his Crucible debut, with Ronnie O’Sullivan taking a particular interest in the promising potter’s potential.
McGill came through a tough qualifying path to reach his maiden World Championship and has high hopes of becoming the first player since Shaun Murphy to taste victory after coming through that difficult route. Odds of 33/1 are available on a qualifier lifting the world crown in Sheffield this year.
Elsewhere, world number three Neil Robertson begins his world title charge against Jamie Jones, Marco Fu comes up against Jimmy Robertson, Barry ‘the Hawk’ Hawkins contests qualifier Matthew Selt and four-time Crucible king John Higgins battles Robert Milkins.