Mark Selby has already won the season’s two biggest titles and is world no.1 so heads to the Crucible as one of the bona fide favourites for the world title.
He has not dominated the campaign but that spell in December and January, when he also won a European Tour event in Germany, was evidence of his ability to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into winning titles. He wasn’t necessarily at full flight but he did what he had to. He won.
If Selby does the hat-trick he will join a very special club. Only Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry (twice) and Mark Williams have won the UK, Masters and world titles in the same season.
Selby has not lit up the circuit in recent tournaments but that may be a blessing in disguise because mental stamina is a must for the 17 day marathon of the mind.
What a difference a year makes. Last year he turned up in Sheffield unable to play properly due to a neck complaint. In 2013 he goes there with a great chance to seize the most famous trophy of them all.
Selby’s game is far from one dimensional. He can scrap things out, and often does. He can make things difficult. He can force his opponents to lose their rhythm.
But he can also score heavily. He is the only player ever to make six centuries in a match at the Crucible. For the last two seasons he has recorded more century breaks than anyone else.
This is a (Steve) Davis, (John) Higgins-like game which, allied to a big match temperament, makes Selby hard to beat.
But his great asset is also his attitude. He has a genuine love of snooker. He enjoys playing because he loves the game.
He may enjoy the financial rewards that come with the job but he isn’t in for this. He doesn’t obsess about prize funds. He doesn’t claim he’s worth more than he’s getting.
In short, he’s playing for the right reasons. He was even sat at home watching the qualifiers. I know this because he texted me to query an obscure fact I had given out.
He was right, I was wrong. He’s a fan as well as a player.
But for all this, winning the World Championship has eluded a long list of players who seem to have been good enough to win it. Only one player can triumph each year. Selby is in a tough quarter alongside Mark Allen and Ding Junhui and there’s no reason to suppose it will get any easier thereafter.
He often gets embroiled in close matches and wins many of them. He’s a master of brinkmanship but over the long Sheffield fortnight this will be mentally draining.
The World Championship is the greatest test of any player’s career. Is Selby really up to it?
This year we may find out one way or another. He has the titles and the game to suggest he can do it.
But, of course, he still has to do it, and there are plenty of talented cuemen standing in his way.