If it’s the first day of Wimbledon it must be the start of the ranking tournament season.
Three years ago that would have been unthinkable. But the Wuxi Classic, one of five ranking events staged in China this season, starts in Wuxi City on Monday.
There are a few absentees. Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins haven’t entered while Matthew Stevens has withdrawn citing a back injury.
This is the first tournament I can ever remember Stevens pulling out of. It’s bad news for him but, inevitably, good news for Joe Perry, who he was due to play.
It doubtless seems like an early start for some top players but if they’d ever had jobs other than playing snooker they’d know that seven weeks – which it has been since the world final – is a holiday period unheard of in most professions.
There is a £75,000 top prize on offer, plus ever valuable ranking points.
I don’t know who will win the title but I suspect it will be someone who has been practising properly, though it is also true to say that some players need to practise more than others.
The qualifiers may, for once, be at an advantage because they have at least had competitive outings whereas most of the top 16 are coming in cold.
That said, some of the elite band have played in the first Asian PTC, won by Stuart Bingham, who will obviously be full of confidence.
Mark Selby, as world no.1, is the top seed. He plays Barry Hawkins, who beat him 10-3 in the first round at the Crucible.
But Selby was unable to play properly in this match due to his neck injury, which he says has “90% cleared up.”
I’m pleased to hear this but you don’t want to play professional snooker with even 10% pain in your neck.
There have been a number of players to suffer from neck/back/shoulder problems over the years and they always tend to be the hard practisers and players who play in everything.
Selby, though, is pretty tough and clearly determined not to allow his condition to force him out of any more tournaments.
On the face of it, there’s no reason to believe the main titles won’t be shared around again between the same faces who have won them for the past few years.
It would be nice to see a few new winners, too, but almost all of the qualifiers are vastly experienced campaigners.
The one exception is Michael White, who has qualified for the final stages of a ranking event for the first time in his career.
White won the world amateur title – or a version of it after it was rescheduled from earthquake-hit Pakistan to Wales – when he was just 14. He is now 20 and a rising star in the pro ranks.
He’s a good friend of Jamie Jones, who so impressed at the end of last season. They both come from Wales, a place with a proud snooker tradition, and are of the right age to grasp the proliferation of opportunities in this new era.
Eurosport’s coverage of the Wuxi Classic starts at 7.30am BST on Monday.