London (AFP) – Defending champion Mark Selby suffered a shock first-round defeat in snooker’s World Championship on Saturday as fellow cuemaster Ronnie O’Sullivan was made to struggle.
The opening day of the tournament saw Selby beaten 10-4 by Joe Perry in an all-English contest while their compatriot O’Sullivan, bidding for a sixth world title, found himself 6-3 down to Scotland’s Stephen Maguire.
That match resumes on Sunday.
Selby was aiming to become just the third player after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry to win three successive world title since the tournament moved to its present home of Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in northern England back in 1977.
But Perry didn’t look back after racing into a 7-2 lead in the morning session and not even Selby, renowned as a tough match-player, could overturn such a heavy deficit on this occasion.
“I lost it really in the first session,” said Selby.
“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,” the 43-year-old, a World Championship semi-finalist in 2008, added.
“To do it at the Crucible makes it even more special.”
O’Sullivan, nicknamed ‘the Rocket’ for the breathtaking speed and fluency with which he plays when in top form, showed his enduring class with back-to-back century breaks against Maguire.
But Maguire held his nerve to win the last two frames of the day and leave O’Sullivan facing the prospect of his first opening-round defeat at the World Championship since he lost 10-6 to Hong Kong’s Marco Fu in 2003.
In other matches, 2006 world champion Graeme Dott went 6-3 up against Ali Carter, twice a losing finalist, with Chinese debutant Lyu Haotian leading Fu by the same score.