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McManus: I cannot think of anyone I'd rather play

ALAN McManus will put friendship to one side when he takes on fellow Scot John Higgins in the first round of the Dafabet World Championship.

The pair sat together as the draw was made in London yesterday and it was not long before they were exchanging good-natured jibes as a result of their scheduled meeting.

The prestigious tournament starts tomorrow and runs until May 5. "There was a bit of banter after we got drawn together, but it was all a bit of good fun," said McManus, a former semi-finalist at the Crucible.

"We were actually due to practise together this week, but that's gone out the window! We are good friends, but we're both experienced enough to focus on the match. It can be difficult when you play someone you know so well but I'm genuinely just going to try and enjoy myself. I honestly can't think of anyone I'd rather play at the Crucible than John."

McManus defeated Welshman Mark Williams, a two-time world champion, 10-8 in his final qualifying match to earn a place in the draw. The 43-year-old, who is now based in Bearsden, is enjoying something of a career renaissance, battling back to No.35 in the world rankings having recently slipped out of the top 50.

"It will be a fantastic game for both of us; it's good for Scottish snooker," said the Scot, once ranked No.6 in the world. "I'd put John up there in the top bracket of great players alongside the likes of Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Steve Davis. It's going to be a pleasure to play him. I've the utmost respect for him."

Elsewhere in the draw, Stephen Maguire, from Glasgow, will play Welshman Ryan Day in the first round, while Hamilton's Jamie Burnett faces England's Joe Perry. Ronnie O'Sullivan, the holder, will open against Robin Hull of Finland.

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