THE opening day at The Crucible sees the defending champion take to the baize. Michael Day (@daisy8ball) gives us his thoughts.
Mark Selby v Kurt Maflin | Saturday 10:00 | BBC Red Button
As per tradition, the reigning world champion opens tournament proceedings on Saturday morning, with the two session encounter coming to a conclusion in the evening. This year that very special honour goes to Mark Selby, who lifted the famous silver trophy last May for the first time.
You may have read my outright preview and know my feelings towards Selby’s chances, and the ‘terrifying’ curse of the Crucible, where no first time winner has ever defended the title.
Perhaps there is something in it though. Greats of the modern game such as Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan have all failed in their bids for back to back success.
There's also a fairly frequent number of first or second round losses for reigning World Champions. The last two first time WC’s, Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson, both failed to negotiate the opening hurdle in 2007 and 2011 respectively.
Kurt Maflin of Norway will be aiming to continue that trend, after the qualifier recently came through three rounds of gruelling competition at Ponds Forge.
And the precocious talent may fancy his chances, after a great run in this month's China Open in Beijing – where he equalled his career best run in a major event by reaching the semi-finals. However his impressive run was stopped by the eventual winner……..Mark Selby.
So in many ways it looks set to be a high quality affair, with both players in good knick. It will be a test for the battle hardened, mentally rock steady Selby, something he has not experienced before; but something I believe he will get through.
In many ways he will be more conscious of Maflin's threat, so his guard will be up. It will also be the world number 38’s Crucible debut, so he is bound to be a bag of nerves himself in an unfamiliar and unique setting. Potentially even intimidating with the close proximity of almost everything.
The pair have only ever clashed twice before. Once was that meeting a few weeks ago which Selby won 6-3, but Maflin did come out on top in the last 32 of the 2014 German Masters 5-3.
I still expect the outsider to lose, but I think he’ll impress. He is a fantastic break builder who has over 100 career centuries to his name, and surprisingly to some, two maximum 147 breaks. It’s just down to how brave you want to go.
First round matches are best of 19 frames, so first to 10. And I think Kurt can get at least five, so pretty much one out of every three played.
Over 14.5 total frames with William Hill is 4/7, but over 15.5 with the same firm is 21/20 – this is very good considering the same bet is a shade odds on with other bookmakers. Basically we need any score line of 10-6 or above – something I think that is very achievable.
Mark Selby v Kurt Maflin – Over 15.5 Frames (21/20 William Hill)
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