World Snooker

Rocketing back: Ronnie O’Sullivan survives first-round scare as Mark Selby makes shock exit at Worlds

Defending champion from Leicester is crushed by English veteran Joe Perry while the “Rocket” rallies to beat Scotsman Maguire at the Crucible Theatre

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 11:38pm

Mark Selby had entered the world championship as defending champion, world No 1 and aiming for a third straight world title. But instead the 33-year-old Englishman earned the dubious distinction of becoming only the seventh defending champion to be knocked out in the first round at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

Five-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan, of England, looked precariously close to joining the casualty list but recovered brilliantly to beat Scotland’s Stephen Maguire 10-7 on Sunday night.

Selby looked well placed going into his first round match against English veteran Joe Perry. Two weeks ago, the Jester from Leicester pocketed £225,000 (HK$2.47 million) – the second highest prize in snooker – for retaining his China Open crown in Beijing. His confidence soared and his form seemed to be peaking at the right time.

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But Perry, the oldest player in the tournament at 42, threw the form book out the window with a sensational 10-4 victory against the man who won three of the last four world titles.

Cambridgeshire-based Perry, who reached the main draw from the qualifiers, raced into a 7-2 lead in the morning session and never looked back against an off-form and erratic Selby.

“I lost it really in the first session,” said Selby after his quick exit.

“My safety wasn’t up to scratch and every time I made a mistake he punished me heavily.”

Selby, however, was quick to acknowledge the quality of Perry’s performance, adding: “He’s underachieved if anything. He should have won a lot more than he’s won. I’ve always rated him as a top player. The last three or four years I’ve had some good success here so I can’t complain.”

Meanwhile an elated Perry said: “I’m delighted, I’m chuffed. When the draw came out it’s one of your two worst nightmares.

“When you beat the world number one, world champion, in any tournament it’s a great feeling,” he added. “To do it at the Crucible makes it even more special.”

Perry was modest with his celebration despite the magnitude of his victory and said: “I didn’t want to show off when I won. It must be horrible [for Selby].

“I’ve got too much respect for him to go over the top and it’s just a nice win. It’s up there with my best, definitely.

“When you beat the world No 1, world champion, in any tournament it’s a great feeling. To do it at the Crucible makes it even more special.”

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Selby joins Steve Davis (1982), Dennis Taylor (1986), Stephen Hendry (2000), Graeme Dott (2007), Neil Robertson (2011) and Stuart Bingham (2016) as defending champions who lost in the first round.

O’Sullivan, who last won the world title in 2013, was in trouble when he fell 4-0 and then 6-3 behind against Maguire, but the “Rocket” won seven of the next eight frames to progress to the next round where he will meet either Ali Carter or former champion Graeme Dott.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse