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2023 World Snooker Championship Day 7 Preview: Ronnie O'Sullivan returns

The second round of the World Snooker Championship is in full swing on Friday and it promises to be a cracking day of action at the Crucible.

Day seven sees a terrific last-16 tie between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Hossein Vafaei, before surprise package Jak Jones takes on 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.

Mark Williams and Luca Brecel are also back for the final two sessions of their second-round tie and will go into Friday with the scores level at 4-4.

Ronnie O’Sullivan (2/7) v Hossein Vafaei (11/4)

Ronnie O'Sullivan is no stranger to being under the Crucible Theatre spotlight, but his last-16 opponent Hossein Vafaei has set up what could be a blockbuster World Snooker Championship second-round clash.

Vafaei has previously criticised O’Sullivan’s flirtations with retirement, claiming that the Rocket was "not good for the game" and "sometimes disrespectful" with his comments about other players.

The Iranian went a step further following his 10-6 first-round victory over Ding Junhui, as he poured scorn on 'The Rocket' for making excuses after defeats.

"He is a legend of the sport, but he is such a nice person when he's asleep," Vafaei told BBC Sport.

'The Prince of Persia' has certainly stoked the flames going into his second-round tie with the seven-time world champion, but is he playing with fire?

'The Rocket' is 2/7 to make it through to the Sheffield quarter-finals, while Vafaei is 11/4 to win after his verbal attack.

O’Sullivan has been pretty tight-lipped in response to the comments of the 28-year-old Iranian, however, we may get a reaction on the table from the seven-time Crucible king.

The Rocket cruised past Pang Junxu 10-7 in the first-round, despite suffering from a bug, and adding motivation to a cueman who has won seven Masters titles, seven UK Championship and seven World Championship crowns is perhaps not the most astute move.

Vafaei is a better player than his ranking suggests, as various off-the-table issues have prevented the 28-year-old making an impact on tour, but he has just one Crucible victory and one ranking event win to his name.

It will be fascinating to see if Vafaei can do the talking on the baize when the pair start up on Friday.

Jak Jones (5/1) v Neil Robertson (1/8)

Neil Robertson can lay strong claims on the most impressive first-round victory accolade following a 10-3 last-32 victory over Wu Yize.

It was a potting masterclass from the Thunder from Down Under, who rattled in breaks of 96, 100, 136 and two 146 efforts.

It’s 8/1 that Robertson makes six or more centuries in this second-round best-of-25-frame tie and that could be an interesting proposition.

A repeat of that scoring will make the Aussie, a 1/8 shot, almost impossible to beat, but there are a couple of second-round obstacles to overcome.

Firstly, Jak Jones is a rapidly-improving potter, who beat Adam Duffy, Robbie Williams and Barry Hawkins to qualify for the Crucible and was then clearly the top performer when beating Ali Carter 10-6 in the first-round.

Another consideration is Robertson’s Crucible record.

The Aussie is a 27-time ranking event winner, but the 41-year-old has only won the World Championship on one occasion and he hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals in any of his last eight visits to Sheffield.

Jones is 5/1 to pull off what would be an almighty shock and 8/11 when getting a 5.5-frame start on the handicap.

Clearly, it would be a huge surprise if the Welshman ended Robertson’s run, but the Aussie’s ordinary Crucible record adds another level of interest to this second-round contest.

Williams and Brecel locked in battle for last-eight spot

Friday at the Crucible will also see a quarter-finalist decided when the second-round contest between Mark Williams and Luca Brecel concludes in the afternoon and evening sessions.

The pair are locked together at 4-4 after their first session of play, in which Williams established an early 3-1 lead before being pegged back.

The Welsh Potting Machine is a three-time world champion and the 48-year-old is 4/7 to reach the last eight of the Sheffield showpiece for the fourth year on the bounce.

Brecel is an 11/8 shot to upset the Welshman and the match, which has already seen two century breaks, is 11/10 to go over the 4.5 ton mark.

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