Scotland’s Alan McManus ended his seven-year wait for a Crucible return yesterday when the two-time World Championship semi-finalist earned his place in the main draw.
And the veteran admits he would love to be paired with Ronnie O’Sullivan when the first-round draw is made at lunchtime today. The 42-year-old beat Leicester’s Tom Ford 10-5 in the final round of the qualifying event, for his third win of the week. McManus suffered losses to Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry in the 1992 and 1993 semi-finals, but his career has slipped into decline and his last World Championship appearance came in 2006.
A run to the Welsh Open quarter-finals in February, when he lost to eventual champion Stephen Maguire, suggested there was life left in his game. And McManus followed that up by beating Aditya Mehta, Nigel Bond and then Ford at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport venue to reach the nearby Crucible. He said: “I’ll take who I get now but, masochistically, I would quite like to play Ronnie, to get that centre-stage thing. I could quietly go about my business in the background while all the razzamatazz goes on.
“I don’t really remember my semi-finals. I remember getting bagpiped in because it was two Scots, but it’ll be nice to create one or two more memories going back to the Crucible and playing. Regardless of who I play, I’ll be big second favourite. But to get a chance to play at the Crucible is massive for me.
“People might be surprised to see me and say, ‘Are you still playing?’. But the answer will be, ‘Yeah, it’s what I do’.”
There was to be no fairytale return to the Crucible for Jimmy White. The 50-year-old Londonder, who, like McManus, hasn’t played at the Worlds for seven years, lost 10-5 to Robert Milkins Milkins in his final qualifier last night. Former world champion Ken Doherty suffered a 10-9 defeat to Matthew Selt despite securing a final-frame decider from 9-4 down.
Selt will be one of a host of Crucible debutants, with the likes of Jack Lisowski, Michael White, Ben Woollaston, Sam Baird and Dechewat Poomjaeng joining him in today’s first-round draw.