O’Sullivan and Ebdon are pick of the round

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JOHN Higgins will begin the defence of his Betfred.com World Championship title against China’s Liang Wenbo - but the pick of the first-round draw sees Ronnie O’Sullivan face Peter Ebdon.

Ebdon beat O’Sullivan in a famous quarter-final in Sheffield seven years ago, when his slow play drew criticism and left O’Sullivan clearly frustrated.

At the age of 41, Ebdon breezed through his qualifier last night, beating Alfie Burden 10-0, and after winning the China Open at the start of the month he is a player in rich form.

The clash of the former world champions, Ebdon a one-time winner from 2002 and O’Sullivan a three-time title holder, will take place over afternoon sessions next Monday and Tuesday.

Higgins will begin his campaign at 10am on Saturday, day one of the tournament.

Draw for the first round of the Betfred.com World Championship, beginning in Sheffield on Saturday:

John Higgins v Liang Wenbo

Stuart Bingham v Stephen Hendry

Graeme Dott v Joe Perry

Stephen Maguire v Luca Brecel

Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones

Stephen Lee v Andrew Higginson

Ali Carter v Mark Davis

Judd Trump v Dominic Dale

Mark Williams v Liu Chuang

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Peter Ebdon

Martin Gould v David Gilbert

Neil Robertson v Ken Doherty

Ding Junhui v Ryan Day

Mark Allen v Cao Yupeng

Matthew Stevens v Marco Fu

Mark Selby v Barry Hawkins