World Snooker Championship: Mark Selby on Crucible pressure

Defending champion Mark Selby
2015 World Championship
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 18 April-4 May
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, HD, Red Button, Connected TV, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Full details here.

Defending champion Mark Selby will need to break 'the Crucible curse' if he is to win the 2015 World Championship.

Selby, 31, clinched his maiden world title last year after beating Ronnie O'Sullivan 18-14 in the final.

No first-time winner of the competition has ever retained their crown, a statistic Selby is well aware of.

"It is a curse and it is going to be difficult but I will just try my best. It shows how difficult the tournament is to win," said the Leicester man.

'Nerves will inspire me'

2014 World snooker champion Mark Selby
Defending champion Selby was victorious at the China Open earlier this month

Selby, runner-up in 2007, comes up against a dangerous opponent in Norway's Kurt Maflin in his first-round tie on Saturday. After a slow start to the season, he picked up two ranking event victories in 2015 - the German Masters in February and China Open earlier this month.

The world number one admits he will be edgy when stepping out into the arena in the opening match.

"It will be a fantastic feeling to walk out at the Crucible and be announced as the defending champion," said Selby. "It is all I have ever dreamed of and to walk out that morning will be emotional.

"I will feel a bit nervous. Even if I wasn't defending champion I'd be nervous. Everyone gets nervous. It would be wrong if you didn't get butterflies because it is such a great tournament and such a great venue. But hopefully the nerves will inspire me and I'll play better."

'The hardest championship ever'

Ronnie O'Sullivan
BBC pundit Ken Doherty has tipped last year's finalist Ronnie O'Sullivan to lift the 2015 tournament title

Former world champions O'Sullivan, Australia's Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy have all won major titles this year, as has 2011 finalist Judd Trump, while China's number one Ding Junhui still looks for the elusive first world title win.

Robertson was the last first-time winner to be hit by the curse, having won the title in 2010 before losing to Judd Trump in the first round the following year.

But who do the BBC Sport pundits think will have a good run this year?

World rankings (post-China Open)
1. Mark Selby (Eng)
2. Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng)
3. Ding Junhui (Chn)
4. Neil Robertson (Aus)
5. Barry Hawkins (Eng)

Six-time world champion Steve Davis: "It is very hard to pick an outright winner with so many good players competing but you have to look at those in form. Murphy performed well to win the Masters, John Higgins is looking good so could be a dark horse and it will be fascinating to see if Selby can break the curse.

"Never discount O'Sullivan. However, there is still expectation on him. That has its own pressure and if you are one of the favourites, all eyes are always on you. That takes its toll and you have to be very strong to withstand that for two weeks. I know what it did to me, I always felt the pressure.

"The second week will define who is in form. The British contingent will play a big part in this year's tournament and while the game is expanding worldwide, I feel a Brit will have his name on the title."

1997 winner Ken Doherty: "There are a lot of possible candidates this year. It will be very open and Selby did very well to win it last year. But he has to contend with the hoodoo, which is going to be difficult. The curse is a strange one, I got to the final in 1998 after winning it the previous year but didn't manage to break it.

"Selby has the capacity, the capability and temperament to change the record books. It will be broken at some time along the line.

"Higgins has not been mentioned much and he is such a great all-round player, one of the best players of all time. He is an outsider but I am expecting a good run from him. O'Sullivan, for me, is favourite. He is the man to beat."

Former UK Championship finalist Willie Thorne: "Murphy has got a tough draw against Finland's Robin Hull, while Matt Selt has a chance of going through against Barry Hawkins. Selby is up against Kurt Maflin, but I expect it will be a step too far for the Norway man to win.

"This year's championship is the hardest it could ever be. There are at least 10 players who are capable of winning it. As you would expect, O'Sullivan is the favourite but my pick would be Murphy if he gets through the first round.

"The curse is going to be broken at some time, there will be a first-time winner one day who defends his title. Will it be this year? One thing is for sure, Selby is granite. He always rings me to complain that he is not doing well, but I just tell him to go out and enjoy himself."

Crucible debutants
NameAgeResidesAchievements2015 first-round opponent
Stuart Carrington (Eng)24Grimsby, LincsJunior Pot Black, Crucible, 2006Judd Trump (Eng) - Wed 22 Apr, 19:00 BST
Kurt Maflin (Nor)31Oslo, NorwayTwo competitive 147 breaksMark Selby (Eng) - Sat 17 Apr, 10:00 BST
Anthony McGill (Sco)24GlasgowUK Championship quarter-finals, 2014Stephen Maguire (Sco) - Sat 18 Apr, 14:30 BST
Craig Steadman (Eng)32Farnworth, LancsDebuts at World Championship after 14 years of tryingRonnie O'Sullivan (Eng) - Tue 21 Apr, 14:30 BST

The numbers game

  • Prize money for winner: £300,000
  • Including qualifiers, 2014 winner Mark Selby had the longest wait for a player to win his first title (15th attempt)
  • Number of centuries compiled in 2014: 58. Crucible record: 83 (2009)
  • Having scored just 269 points but conceded 1082, qualifier Robbie Williams has the worst ratio of points scored to points conceded (19.91%) in Crucible history
  • And the longest Crucible frame was timed at 75 minutes in 2009, a second round match between Stephen Maguire and Mark King

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