Three years ago today the snooker world was stopped in its tracks by the death of Paul Hunter, one of the game’s best and most popular players.
Paul was 27 when cancer claimed him. He hasn’t been forgotten and some very good work is being done in his memory by the Paul Hunter Foundation.
Sport, as it did in 2006 and as it always does, goes on and the quarter-final line-up at the Grand Prix leaves us with a tournament that is hard to call.
John Higgins was given the fright of his career by Mark Allen at the Betfred.com World Championship last season and will need to be on his guard to keep his title defence going today.
Allen is someone for whom major silverware is surely not far away. It’s his bad luck he’s drawn the world champion but it might be Higgins cursing the random draw by the end of the afternoon.
Joe Perry and Neil Robertson were sat together as the draw was made. They once played a final qualifier at Prestatyn for which Perry drove them down from Cambridge.
Robertson won the match and they then drove back. I imagine the radio was probably on most of the way.
Ding Junhui looked confident and relaxed in dispatching Stephen Maguire last night but Peter Ebdon will provide a stern test.
Ding needs to dig deep. Sport is often ultimately about what attitude you show in adversity and he can’t allow frustration to get to him if he is to come through.
Mark Williams hasn’t been in a ranking event semi-final for three and a half years, since he won the 2006 China Open.
The Welshman scrapped through yesterday against a below par Stephen Hendry and now meets Robert Milkins, the surprise quarter-finalist.
The only other time they’ve played – at the Crucible in 2005 – Williams beat him 10-1, finishing off with a maximum.
It should be a high quality final lap to the tournament, for which crowds have grown since its disappointing start.
All eyes will be on the action, but many thoughts today will also be with Paul Hunter’s family.
They, like the game itself, must miss him terribly.