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All eyes on Ronnie as troubled ace cues off at Crucible

Ronnie O'Sullivan began his World Championship campaign today -- 11 days after ruling himself out of the tournament.

After first-round defeats at the UK Championship, Masters, Welsh Open and China Open, O'Sullivan started his match against Welshman Dominic Dale without any success at a major ranking event since September.

With his interest in the game waning apparently more than ever, there is huge interest in how 35-year-old O'Sullivan performs.

The winner of his clash with Dale, which finishes tomorrow, will face Shaun Murphy in the second round.

The prospect of facing snooker's biggest enigma excites Murphy, but the 2005 champion said: "I'm not sure it's a guarantee he's going to win his opening match. It's a long time since he won."

O'Sullivan told World Snooker officials on April 7 that he would not be travelling to Sheffield this year, but changed his mind the following day.

He is rated only fifth favourite for the Crucible title, which he has won three times, most recently in 2008.

Mark Williams, who beat fellow Welshman Ryan Day 10-5 yesterday, has no doubt three-time winner O'Sullivan could sweep aside all competition at the Crucible.

"Yes, if he turns up," Williams said. "No one knows what's going through his head.

"If he turns up and gives it 100pc, for me he's the one to beat. But in the last two tournaments he has turned up, Ryan (Day) has spanked him twice, and Dominic's not going to be an easy game for him."

Stoke's Jamie Cope reached the second round yesterday with a 10-7 victory over Crucible rookie Andrew Pagett, the world number 80, while Ali Carter beat Dave Harold 10-3.