This always used to be the height of the season but there has been such a long lay-off for the top players that they must feel as if the campaign is already over.
John Higgins won the totesport.com Welsh Open on January 31. By the time he starts out in the winners’ group of the Championship League next week it will have been seven and a half weeks since he last hit a ball.
It will be interesting to see if this has halted the momentum he had in the early part of the season. Higgins has appeared in the last six ranking event semi-finals. If he gets that far at the China Open and Betfred.com World Championship he will equal the record held jointly by Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.
But I doubt he’s done much practising in recent weeks – what’s the point? – and may find it hard to pick up where he left off.
We are now entering the final furlong of what has been a disappointingly disjointed season. The Championship League returns on Monday, the China Open starts the following week and then the drama of the Crucible gets underway on April 17.
For some players – Ricky Walden among them – the season is already over. There’s nothing worse for a player than knowing the World Championship is on the TV when you’re not in it.
Even going abroad on holiday doesn’t make much difference these days because the championship is shown around the world.
The Championship League will be a help for the players involved next week in terms of fine tuning their games for a very important month ahead.
Group seven features the returning Peter Ebdon, Jamie Cope, Mark Williams and Joe Swail along with Ding Junhui, Steve Davis and Michael Holt.
The winners’ group features the group seven winner plus Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Judd Trump, Marco Fu, Neil Robertson and Mark Allen.