Ding draws former champion Bingham in world snooker opener

London (AFP) –


China's Ding Junhui's bid to finally land the world snooker title begins against 2015 champion Stuart Bingham after the draw was made on Thursday.

Ding, 34, a two-time semi-finalist and who reached the final in 2016 meets an opponent whose best days may well be behind him having had to come through qualifying to gain his place at The Crucible Theatre.

The championships get under way on Saturday and reach their climax on May 3.

There are four other Chinese cuesmen involved in first round action.

Masters champion Yan Bingtao plays Martin Gould whilst Liang Wenbo faces in-form Australian and 2010 champion Neil Robertson.

Tian Pengfei plays Scotland's four-time winner John Higgins, while Lyu Haotian faces Northern Irish veteran Mark Allen.

Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan's bid for a seventh title -- which would equal Stephen Hendry's record haul in the modern era -- plays Mark Joyce.

The 37-year-old reached the main draw for the first time through the qualifying tournament.

His only realistic hope of a major upset is if 45-year-old O'Sullivan has one of his days when he lets his focus slip as he has admitted to doing against those he considers lowly opponents.

O'Sullivan, though, has reached five major finals this season.

World number one Judd Trump takes on Liam Highfield but the tie of the round could well be three-time world champion Mark Selby against Norway's Kurt Maflin.