Mark Selby only edged past debutant Kurt Maflin in his Crucible opener, meaning the defending world champion must up his game in order to topple in-form Anthony McGill
World snooker champion Mark Selby will need to improve his potting form in Sheffield in order to overcome menacing Scottish cueist Anthony McGill, with ‘the Jester from Leicester’ having only edged past Kurt Maflin in a deciding frame during the opening round of his defence.
The reigning Crucible king is aiming to finally break the long-standing Steel City curse, with no first-time winner having ever successfully retained their title since the tournament’s switch to the prestigious Yorkshire venue in 1977.
It looked as if that daunting record was set to continue in the first round, as Selby, best priced 7/1 with Bet365 to win consecutive Crucible crowns, entered a deciding frame against World Championship debutant Maflin, having went 9-8 down at one point to the London-born Norwegian potter.
“At any other venue I think I would have been out. But because it is the Crucible, he probably felt the nerves a bit towards the end,” said Selby.
“Up until 8-5, I felt like I was in control, but then he started getting more and aggressive and played fantastic. When he was in at 9-8, I was sort of preparing my speech thinking the curse has happened again.
“It’s a tough tournament and the hardest tournament in the world to win. To win it once is fantastic, but hopefully I can defend it.”
A similar performance against astute break builder McGill would more than likely see the current world champion exit the competition prematurely, with the Scottish qualifier having impressively overcome fellow countryman Stephen Maguire in his opening clash.
Menacing McGill is a tasty 3/1 with Sky Bet to cause an upset, while he is available at 15/8 with Boylesports to make the highest break of this second round encounter.
Elsewhere, ‘the Chinese Sensation’ Ding Junhui will contest four-time world champion John Higgins in the other intriguing second round match-up.
Dominant Ding progressed past Mark Davis in his opener, despite a massive 147 blunder, and the experienced ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ breezed past world number 17 Robert Milkins. Chinese cueist Ding is 12/1 with Bet Victor to beat Higgins in a decider (13-12), while the 2011 champion is 6/5 with Bet365 to win the match.