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Selby Ready For Rocket Challenge

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Click here for the BetVictor Welsh Open format

Mark SelbyWorld number one Mark Selby says he is pleased to see Ronnie O’Sullivan among the field for next week’s BetVictor Welsh Open in Cardiff as winning the title would mean more.

The world ranking event runs from February 15 to 21 at the Motorpoint Arena with 128 players battling for the trophy. The draw was made yesterday and O’Sullivan will face Barry Pinches in the first round next Monday while Selby will take on Welshman Duane Jones.

It could be the only tournament O’Sullivan will play before the World Championship in April and Leicester’s Selby is looking forward to the challenge.

“It makes it more special to win a tournament when he is in the field,” said Selby, who beat O’Sullivan in the 2008 Welsh Open final. “Even if you don’t end up playing him, you still know at the back of your mind that you’ve won an event when he was in it. He is always the man to beat when he turns up to a tournament in the right frame of mind.

“Any time Ronnie plays in a tournament it helps give it an extra buzz and I’m sure it makes a difference to the TV figures and live crowds. Cardiff is a great venue and I really enjoyed playing there last year.”

O’Sullivan missed the first few months of this season before making a triumphant return to the limelight at the Masters last month, thrashing Barry Hawkins 10-1 in the final.

Mark SelbySelby added: “I wasn’t surprised by how well he played at the Masters because everyone knows how good he is. The frustrating thing was that the best he played all week was against me in the quarter-finals. Perhaps he tries that little bit harder against me.

“Barry Hawkins would have been disappointed by the way he played in the final, he under-performed. The Masters is Ronnie’s home tournament and the crowd there can be intimidating for his opponents. Barry was a bit overawed by the occasion.

“When I beat Ronnie in the World Championship final in Sheffield two years ago, most of the crowd were behind him but they were very respectful. At the Masters when I played him this year there were people shouting things out when I was down on a shot. That wasn’t the difference between me winning and losing, it’s just the way it is in London.”

Among the other star names competing in Cardiff will be Judd Trump, defending champion John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, Jimmy White and home favourites Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens.

Tickets are on sale now and start at just £8, tremendous value to see the world’s top players live. Certain sessions are selling out so fans are urged to book fast. For details call 02920 22 44 88 or CLICK HERE