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Ronnie O’Sullivan faces fast and furious start to World Snooker Championship bid

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN will come face to face with snooker’s fastest player when he begins his bid for a sixth World Snooker Championship on Sunday.

O’Sullivan (pictured above) has been paired with Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who swept through qualifying and whose pace has been officially recorded at less than 17 seconds per shot.

Fans with tickets for the first-round clash can expect a fast and furious session given O’Sullivan’s own reputation for speed, not least his five-minute maximum break in the 1997 tournament.

Thepchaiya (below), the current world number 20, pushed eventual champion Judd Trump to a final frame decider in the first round last year, and also came close against John Higgins on his Crucible debut in 2018.

Speaking after his Tuesday night win over Liam Highfield in qualifying, Thepchaiya said: ‘It’s the third year I’ve qualified and I’ve done well in the last two years — but I will hopefully not get Judd Trump again.’

Trump, who is aiming to become the first first-time winner to defend his title at the Crucible, will play his first-round match to a finish on Friday against world number 26 Tom Ford.

The 36-year-old Ford has reached the first round on three previous occasions and is yet to win a match in the final stages.

Anthony Hamilton, who has expressed grave concerns over safety at the tournament following the decision to admit a limit number of fans, will also start on Friday against eighth seed Kyren Wilson.

Alan McManus, the oldest player to reach the Crucible since Steve Davis’s final appearance at the age of 52 in 2010, takes on Mark Williams, while four-time winner John Higgins starts against former finalist Matthew Stevens.