Overseas trips with snooker have always been fun, usually because no sooner has the plane left the tarmac that something goes catastrophically wrong.
China is a country snooker players have had to get used to visiting in the last decade. It has two ranking events with talks underway to convert the Jiangsu Classic, currently an invitation tournament, into a third.
I recall two incidents from the 2002 China Open in Shanghai that sum up the way British snooker players have had to adjust to life playing a long way from home.
The first concerned Mark Selby, then just 18 and so understandably not worldly wise.
Selby had beaten a 14 year-old wildcard by the name of Ding Junhui in the opening round and then Joe Swail and was due to face Stephen Hendry in the last 16.
This was, of course, a big deal for the teenager and you could understand his excitement at the prospect of playing one of his heroes.
That said, it was still a surprise to see him fully dressed in his waistcoat, cue in hand, in the lobby of the tournament hotel at 1am.
I had been enjoying light refreshments with other journalists and officials and as we made our way to the lifts, there was Mark and his mate talking to the concierge.
One of the referees approached him to check all was well. Selby explained he was trying to arrange transport to the venue as he was “playing at half two.”
The ref said something like, “yes, half past two in the afternoon.”
It was here that the penny finally dropped. Selby looked up at the glass atrium of the hotel and saw that it was pitch black outside, a fact that had not previously registered.
After such a bewildering experience, there was only one result possible. Selby beat Hendry 5-1.
Credit to him, he told the whole story in the post match press conference. He then beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 in the quarter-finals.
Graeme Dott did not enjoy such a fairytale end to his own embarrassment, which was a sort of snooker version of Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
Dott had been unable to catch his scheduled flight from Glasgow to London because of fog and the delay meant that he also missed the scheduled flight from London to Bangkok (players were flying to here because there was a tournament in Thailand the week after and it made it easier to go home from Bangkok rather than fly back into China).
I’d imagine hanging around various airports didn’t improve Dott’s mood because, yes, by the time he made it to Bangkok, he had missed the intended flight to Shanghai.
It ended up taking him something like 36 hours to reach Shanghai and he immediately collapsed in bed, exhausted.
He was, in fact, so tired that he slept through his alarm call. When he eventually awoke he realised it was something like 15 minutes before his first round match against Darren Morgan was due to start.
Dott bolted out of bed and threw on his snooker gear – not wasting time to put on any underpants.
He ran from the hotel and hailed a taxi. The taxi driver went the wrong way and Dott was reduced to getting out and running the last half a mile.
He arrived around 15 minutes late, was docked two frames and eventually lost 5-3.
In time he came to see the funny side. It would be fair to say, though, that he did not do so in the post match press conference.
When I asked him how he felt he replied, “suicidal.”
The Guardian, for whom I wrote the story, found it so hilarious that they made Graeme their ‘alternative’ sports personality of the year although, to put this into perspective, H’Angus the Monkey (Hartlepool FC’s mascot) was third.
I supposed there was a happy ending of sorts. Dotty used to argue with Michael Holt as to which of them had the worst record of playing in China.
It was a dispute Holt won when Dott captured the 2007 China Open.
Of course, Dott and Selby contested one of the Crucible semi-finals this year.
On balance, they are probably both happy the championship hasn’t moved to China.