The first snooker table Ding Junhui played on was out in the street where he grew up. His father and his friends would have games on it and young Ding one day had a go himself.
Some sort of talent was spotted and he spent his youth travelling round China getting the best coaching.
Clearly promising, at 14 he was invited to play in the China Open as a wildcard. He was beaten 5-2 by Mark Selby, who remarked afterwards that we would most likely be seeing him again.
Well, the boy prodigy is now a man and has become a great player, as he proved again in beating Selby 9-6 to win the Welsh Open title in Newport tonight.
Ding led 5-3 and from 6-5 made back-to-back centuries. Selby countered with a 145 total clearance, the highest break of the tournament, but Ding held on in a nervy final frame to secure his fifth world ranking title.
He has done it the hard way. His opponents in his five successful ranking finals have been Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and now Selby.
Ding is one of the best break-builders around. He has an almost innate knowledge of how to manoeuvre the cue ball, where to leave it, how to dominate frames.
He is still only 24. Last season he came very close to reaching the world final and will be a major threat at the Crucible again this year.
Ding is also a young man a long way from home. The demands of the season dictate that he must spend large portions of time in the UK, but he naturally likes to get back to China as often as he can.
He seems settled now, though. He has a girlfriend, Apple, and as he proved in his post match interview can speak better English than is widely believed.
This season had not been that special for him until tonight but there is plenty more snooker to come and Ding has proved again that he belongs in that elite group of players who will threaten for any title he contests.