Apr 16 2009 by Paul Wheelock, Chester Chronicle
THE moment Ricky Walden has been waiting all his life for arrives this weekend when he walks out at the Crucible for the first time.
The Chester-born 26-year- old makes his World Championship debut on Sunday against Mark Selby at the legendary Sheffield venue.
Walden will be the underdog for the first-round clash with the world number four and 2007 runner-up.
But he is confident practice sessions with world number three Shaun Murphy, the qualifier who stunned snooker by winning the 2005 championship, will help him cause an upset.
“Everything is in place and I just can’t wait to get there now and play my first match at the Crucible,” said world number 35 Walden, who sealed his maiden trip to the BBC-televised event by defeating world number 31 Anthony Hamilton.
“My preparations could not have gone any better. I’ve been practising with Shaun Murphy over in Sale in Manchester. We played together as juniors so I’ve known him for a long time.
“He’s based up north now so it’s given me the chance to go over this week and practise. He’s a former world champion and without doubt one of the best players in the world, so it’s been a big help.
“The Crucible is the place where you’ve got to step up to the plate, like Shaun did a few years ago. Given the way my preparations have gone, I’m confident I can do that and show that I have what it takes to become a world champion.”
Walden beat Selby, one of his closest friends in the sport, on the way to winning his maiden ranking title at the Shanghai Masters in October.
Selby avenged that defeat, however, by knocking former Sealand Snooker Club player Walden out of The Masters on his Wembley debut in January.
It will be Selby’s fifth successive appearance at the Crucible, but Walden – 19th in the provisional world rankings – does not believe that will give him an advantage.
“As long as you go there and prepare in the right way, I don’t see any reason why you should treat it differently to any other tournament,” said Walden, who is the Chester Snooker Centre’s resident professional.
“It’s not a different type of snooker, it’s still the same table, you’ve just got to adjust to the atmosphere and the venue.”
Walden, whose hopes of making it back-to-back triumphs in the Far East were dashed by Stephen Hendry in the China Open earlier this month, will practise with Murphy tomorrow before making his way to Sheffield on Sunday morning.
Tune in to BBC2 at 2.30pm on Sunday for coverage of Ricky Walden’s World Championship debut.