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World Championship Semi-Final: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Mark Selby

It marks the first time that the pair has crossed paths in Sheffield since their memorable 2014 showdown in the final.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby will encounter each other in a mouthwatering World Championship semi-final at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

The kind of fixture that is tailor-made for the business end of the sport’s most prestigious competition, the Englishmen are set for a fascinating battle over the best of 33 frames.

Much has already been written regarding the rivalry between O’Sullivan and Selby, which for the most part has been built on a mutual respect of one another.

O’Sullivan once labelled Selby as the “Torturer” for his ability to wear down his opponents, but in reality the 44 year-old has an appreciation for the latter’s achievements on the baize.

Both players have enjoyed glittering careers that don’t really need any more silverware to justify their respective statuses as all-time greats.

O’Sullivan is a five-time world champion and has accumulated a record 19 Triple Crown titles, while Selby has won three times at the Crucible and held the number one spot in the world rankings for the majority of the last decade.

Of course, the first of those world crowns for the “Jester” transpired six years ago when he clashed with O’Sullivan in the final.

Trailing 10-7 heading into the last day, Selby fought back in sensational fashion to deny O’Sullivan at the final hurdle for the first and so far only time in his career.

Since then, Selby has been the more consistent force in Sheffield while the “Rocket” has struggled for lift off in the season-ender.

This year’s run, with impressive defeats of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Ding Junhui, and Mark Williams under his belt, marks the first time since then that O’Sullivan has reached the single table set-up.

Selby, meanwhile, has rarely hit peak form but has ultimately outplayed Jordan Brown, Noppon Saengkham, and a disappointing Neil Robertson to reach this point.

The duel against O’Sullivan pits chalk and cheese against each other, with both notable for their complete clash in styles.

Selby’s unwavering temperament and his characteristic of being the master of brinkmanship have gotten under the skins of many players, including O’Sullivan in the past.

Yet, even though the 37 year-old has enjoyed numerous high-profile victories over the 36-time ranking event winner, O’Sullivan does in fact boast the superior overall head-to-head record.

The fact that this battle will be undertaken over a gruelling four sessions and three days could potentially play a pivotal role, however.

While Selby’s focus is unlikely to deviate, O’Sullivan does have the tendency to go walkabout during the lengthier formats, especially when things aren’t quite going his way.

The sixth seed did manage to dig deep in order to retrieve a 7-2 deficit to Williams in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, but overturning that kind of reverse against Selby, whose tactical astuteness can be flawless, might be a more difficult task to overcome.

O’Sullivan’s many fans then will be hoping that he can get off to a better start and stamp his authority on the contest quickly.

Here, O’Sullivan is finally building a genuine opportunity to land what many believe to be an overdue sixth world crown that would take him just one behind Stephen Hendry’s tally of seven at the Crucible.

Selby, on the other hand, is two wins away from separating himself from Mark Williams on the all-time list and joining John Higgins on four overall.

Whatever the outcome, either O’Sullivan or Selby will be a huge favourite heading into a final against either Kyren Wilson or Anthony McGill.

This semi-final is as compelling as it gets, and it’s just a pity that there is no crowd to intensify the atmosphere inside the arena.

Still, millions of fans around the world will be tuning in to watch the latest chapter in one of snooker’s best rivalries.

Live coverage of O’Sullivan versus Selby will be on the BBC, Eurosport, and Matchroom.Live.

Click here to view the draw

Featured photo credit: Monique Limbos

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