UK Championship 2013: Mark Selby faces 15-year-old amateur

By Shamoon HafezBBC Sport
Mark Selby wins 2012 UK Championship title in late-night thriller

Defending champion Mark Selby will face 15-year-old Shane Castle in the first round of the UK Championship.

In a revamped format, the tournament is one of eight where all 128 players enter at the first-round stage.

World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan plays amateur Rhys Clark while China's Ding Junhui is up against Antony Parsons.

The tournament begins on Tuesday in York but O'Sullivan, Selby and Ding do not play their first-round matches until Saturday.

Ding became the first player since Hendry in 1993 to win three successive ranking event titles following triumphs at the Shanghai Masters,Indian Open and International Championship.

"I believe Ding is the best player on the circuit after Ronnie O'Sullivan in terms of ability and break-building," Stephen Hendry, who won the UK Championships five times, told BBC Sport.

"I am hoping that we are seeing the true Ding coming through now and there is an opportunity for him to try to dominate the sport."

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has overhauled the sport since taking over the sport's commercial arm in 2009 and changes to the structure of tournaments has meant the top-16 players have lost their protection in ranking events.

Previously, they had automatically gone through to the last-32 stage but now go in at the first round - effectively having to play two extra matches.

Seven amateur players have been given a place at the UK Championship in York after a corresponding number of players from the professional tour chose not to enter.

All matches up to and including the quarter-finals are best of 11 frames, played in one session. The semi-final is the best of 17, and the final is best of 19.

Seven-time world champion Hendry feels there could be an imbalance to the results of matches in the early rounds of the tournament, which starts at the Barbican Centre on Tuesday.

"There will be a lot of one-sided matches as the players are competing in the first season where all 128 players go into the first round of ranking events," he said.

"You would expect the top players to still beat whoever they play in the first round because they will face the lower-ranked players so it shouldn't pose a problem for them."

Three-time UK champion John Higgins faces Malta's 44-year-old Alex Borg and the 'Wizard of Wishaw' is pleased with the format.

"The UK Championship is a huge tournament and I would love to do well in York this year," Higgins, 38, told World Snooker.external-link

"It's good to have a new format with everyone starting in the same round. You face new opponents and it gives a chance for more players to compete at the venue and get experience playing on TV."

Selected first-round matches:

Mark Selby v Shane Castle

Barry Hawkins v Alexander Ursenbacher

Shaun Murphy v Lee Spick

Judd Trump v Gareth Green

Mark Allen v Jak Jones

Ding Junhui v Antony Parsons

Neil Robertson v Dylan Mitchell

Stephen Maguire v Sanderson Lam

John Higgins v Alex Borg

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Rhys Clark

Full draw on the World Snooker websiteexternal-link

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