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Mixing it with snooker's big boys

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Stuart Bingham

2016 World Snooker Championship
Venue: The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 16 April – 2 May
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport app, Connected TVs and online.

Snooker’s elite have been taking things easy before the World Championship gets under way on Saturday.

But, while reigning champion Stuart Bingham and co have been resting up, the hopefuls have not been so lucky.

After eight days and three gruelling qualifying rounds, the first-round draw is now complete and the top 16 know who they face at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

BBC Sport looks at a few of the 16 qualifiers for the sport’s showpiece event, including a couple of former champions and familiar faces, a possible fairytale winner and two rank outsiders.

The man to avoid

Ding Junhui

Ding Junhui was no doubt the draw that all the top 16 would have liked to sidestep.

The former world number one, an 11-time ranking event winner, slipped down to 17 in the world after a miserable season and subsequently just missed out on an automatic spot.

But his considerable talents were evident as he breezed through qualifying, clinching his place with a 10-2 thumping of former World Championship finalist Nigel Bond.

Martin Gould awaits in the first round and the Chinese superstar will not be short of confidence.

“It doesn’t matter who I play,” said 29-year-old Ding, who became the only player other than Stephen Hendry to win five world ranking titles in a single season in 2013-14. “They don’t want to play me.

“I feel good now having won three matches. I am scoring heavily. This has been good preparation and I’m ready for the first round.”

Introducing…

Mitchell Mann

Birmingham-born Mitchell Mann is the only debutant in this year’s tournament.

World number 74 Mann was once on the books of his hometown football club, but he had to give up high-impact sport because he was diagnosed with Perthes disease