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Ronnie the Rocket is set for Welsh Open blast off

The Welsh Open Snooker championship begins at the Newport Centre tomorrow, with the world’s top 128 all taking part in the opening round of matches.

2013 winner Stephen Maguire, who beat Stuart Bingham 9-8 in last year’s final, will open up the defence of his title against Elliot Slessor in the first of 64 first round matches.

The Welsh potting machine Mark Williams, who is currently outside the top 16 ranked at 18th, will begin his tournament against 23-year-old Michael Wasley.

Elsewhere other major Welsh interest comes from Matthew Stevens, Ryan Day and Dominic Dale who play Adam Wicheard, Rhys Clark and Antony Parsons in their opening ties.

Ronnie O'Sullivan cruised to the Masters title (Picture: DerHexer)

Ronnie O’Sullivan cruised to the Masters title (Picture: DerHexer)

As ever though, all eyes will be on Ronnie O’Sullivan. The Rocket was in imperious form as he cruised to The Masters title in January, losing only seven frames throughout the championship. Four of those came in the final against Mark Selby as O’Sullivan dispatched the Jester from Leicester with typical arrogance.

World number two Selby defeated O’Sullivan in the 2008 Welsh Open final, and starts this year’s tournament against former Crucible semi-finalist Joe Swail.

In the other picks of the draw world number one Neil Robertson will face Lyu Haotian, Judd Trump plays Kyren Wilson and the Wizard of Wishaw John Higgins takes on the Maltese Falcon Tony Drago.

Bookmakers and tournament sponsors Betvictor make O’Sullivan favourite to win the competition at 4/1. Selby, Robertson, Trump and Ding Junhui are all priced at 10/1 or better to win the tournament outright.

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