The third Players Tour Championship event of the season at Gloucester this week heralds the return to action of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
His match against Simon Bedford on Saturday will be O’Sullivan’s first since he beat Ali Carter to win his fourth world title last May.
He said then that he wanted a break and he has taken one, although this has in part been because, in his own words, he found the World Snooker players’ contract “too onerous.”
So what has changed? Well, O’Sullivan wants to play again.
On the eve of the entry date for the latest batch of tournaments he contacted World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and they had a face-to-face meeting. Despite the summer of wrangling over the contract, O’Sullivan and Hearn go way back and like each other.
Hearn told Snooker Scene: “We went through the contract in detail. I explained a few things Ronnie hadn’t understood before. I made no concessions. Ronnie signed the same contract all the other players have signed. It was all very amicable.”
It is unlikely O’Sullivan would have had much appetite for the Wuxi Classic, Australian Open and early PTCs. John Higgins skipped these as well.
But the prospect of not playing in the UK Championship appeared to be a step too far for a player who clearly still has much to offer.
O’Sullivan has many fans and many detractors but nobody can deny the interest he has generated for snooker, not just in terms of bums on seats but in the wider media.
It may be expected that O’Sullivan will be rusty coming back several months after everyone else has been playing but I suspect it won’t take long for him to get back into the swing of things.
He will want to improve his world ranking, which currently stands at 16th, although he will be seeded first or second in all ranking events as world champion even if he drops out of the top 16.
A few months from turning 37, O’Sullivan remains among the group of favourites for any tournament he enters. It would take a dramatic decline for this to change in the near future.
Like Higgins, he won’t play in everything but it was clear at the Crucible that the buzz of competition on the big stage still excites him.
Ultimately Ronnie is Ronnie: a genius who captivates and maddens in almost equal measure. He has, as the song goes, done it his way and that seems unlikely to change as he prepares to start his 21st season as a professional.