WORLD champion Mark Selby said he would relish the prospect of coming head-to-head with Ronnie O’Sullivan once again at the Champion of Champions event in Coventry next month.
The two rivals have not come into battle since Selby shocked O’Sullivan in May to win his first world title in Sheffield.
The pair have created a fierce rivalry in recent years, most notably in the prestigious Masters event, having met on no fewer than three occasions in the final, with ‘The Rocket’ holding the upper hand with two wins.
O’Sullivan, who has won the world title five times, took another sabbatical after the World Championship, but has appeared in a handful of events this year including most recently the International Championship in China.
And, despite being both world champion and world number one, Selby is confident he will feel no added pressure to succeed at the Ricoh Arena next week.
He told the Observer: “I don’t feel any added pressure being world champion.
“Obviously it’s a nice feeling but if anything it will make other players raise their game. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself and I don’t think that will change.
“He (O’Sullivan) has only appeared in a few tournaments this year so he’ll be looking to win the Champion of Champions.
“I obviously beat him at the World Championship earlier this year and I had to be at my very best.
“And he goes into the tournament as defending champion too so it will be good to play against him again.
“I think the crowds will want us to come up against each other because they enjoy it when we play each other and most of the time it’s always a close match.”
Selby will begin his quest for the £100,000 top prize on Tuesday when he faces six-time world champion Steve Davis. He will then face the winner of Judd Trump against Stephen Maguire for a spot the final four on Saturday, when a place in Sunday’s final beckons.
And the ‘Jester from Leicester’, as he is commonly known, is hoping to improve on last year’s semi-final exit.
“It’s an enjoyable event with the group stages to begin with and then you go on to the knockout stage.
“But I came up against Stuart Bingham who played really well against me last year.
“He was in very good form at the time and he came within a couple of frames of beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final so I can’t have too many complaints.”
Last year Selby received a warm welcome from the Coventry crowd despite being a self-confessed Leicester City fanatic.
And the 31-year-old, who played an exhibition match at the Arches snooker venue in Coventry’s Spon End just months after being crowned world champion, is hoping home support will spur him on this time around.
He added: “It’s a fantastic tournament and the venue is brilliant. Obviously it’s ideal for me being from down the road in Leicester.
“I was thinking I might get a bit of stick before last year’s event because obviously the two teams are big rivals on the pitch.
“But the crowd seemed to get behind me and hopefully they’ll do the same again.
“The Champion of Champions is a special event in itself. A lot of players know it’s a good event because the top 16 in the world will be playing. You only get to play if you’ve won an event and the last few places will go to the highest ranked players.
“So it is a fantastic event to be involved in and it’s going to be good for the fans seeing all the top players in action.”
Tickets for the Champion of Champions are available from theticketfactory.com or 0844 338 8000.
Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Stuart Bingham in last year’s Champion of Champions final. (s)