World final rivals tackle rookies in first round

Mark Selby
Mark Selby
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Ronnie O’Sullivan’s rookie World Championship opponent is fearing Crucible humiliation before he even plays his first shot against the five-time winner.

Manchester potter Craig Steadman will make his debut at the age of 32, making him a relative latecomer to snooker’s grandest stage. The worry for Steadman is that years of dreaming of his big moment will turn to torment.

“When you get to the Crucible, I’ve heard horror stories about walking down the stairs and your legs start crumbling,” he said.

Once it comes to potting balls though, Steadman should be finely tuned, having won three qualifying matches to earn his moment in the spotlight. World title favourite O’Sullivan has not played a competitive match since losing to Judd Trump on March 22 in the final of the World Grand Prix.

Steadman said: “I didn’t care who I played having got there for the first time. But obviously it will be a great occasion playing Ronnie and I am glad not to play until next week after three tough qualifiers.

“I have played on TV a few times but nothing to compare with Ronnie at the Crucible.

“It has taken me a long time to get there, I must be a slow learner. Before this I was best-known for knocking Steve Davis off the tour last year. I felt terrible about that, it wasn’t the nicest feeling as the bloke is a legend – but he’s won plenty so I’m sure he forgave me.”

Steadman will have until Tuesday to sweat over the prospect of tackling O’Sullivan.

He visited the theatre to watch his friend Nick Dyson play Ken Doherty in 2001, but said: “I told myself I’d never go again unless I was playing there. Last year I won a couple of qualifying matches before losing to Dechawat Poomjaeng, but my sponsor wanted to go to the Crucible.

“So I sulked a little after my defeat and then I said, ‘Right, we’ll go for the day’, and I watched about five minutes before I walked straight back out and sat in the players’ lounge.

“As a snooker player it’s not nice to sit there watching when you could be playing. You’ve got to earn a right to be there and I’ve done that now and it’s brilliant.”

Defending champion Mark Selby, who beat O’Sullivan in last year’s final, will tackle another Crucible debutant, as he gets his campaign under way on Saturday.

Selby will tackle Norway’s Kurt Maflin, 31, who came through 10-9 in the final qualifying round against Irish veteran Fergal O’Brien on Wednesday night.