So to Shanghai, one of the great cities of the world and playing host to the first major ranking event for two months.
The Shanghai Masters was first held in 2007 but Shanghai had staged events before this, in 1999 and 2002. The Grand Stage is a formidable venue and the event always comes across well.
The organisers wanted nothing to do with the new ‘flat’ system because the old one worked fine for them, which is why it’s the top 16 plus 16 qualifiers.
Graeme Dott, who won the 2007 China Open in Shanghai, is never one to mince words and put it thus in a local newspaper interview last week: “It’s a proper tournament, played at a proper venue under proper conditions.”
There are also eight wildcards, two of whom could knock out Chinese players before the last 32, which seems to slightly defeat the purpose.
Ding Junhui will, as ever, shoulder much of the expectation but he’s in a tough quarter that includes Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson.
John Higgins won a terrific final last year, coming from 7-2 down to beat Judd Trump 10-9. The two could meet again in the semi-finals.
Trump certainly needs a run to get some confidence on board after a slow start to the campaign. However, it is a long season and there have only been two ranking events so far (one of which he didn’t enter).
It seems people spend the first half of every season saying, at various points, that ‘the season starts here.’ Actually it started in May, but players can’t be expected to maintain the same intensity for 11 months.
The usual suspects will provide the usual challenge. Mark Selby was champion two years ago and is in the opposite half to Higgins and Trump.
Mark Allen may not be the world’s most enthusiastic traveller but has won two titles in China and is always a dangerman.
A first round match to savour – and it’s live on Eurosport on Tuesday morning – is Mark Davis v Ali Carter.
Carter had dropped out of the top 16 while recovering from testicular cancer and had to qualify. Davis has just won not only the Six Reds world title but also the General Cup in Hong Kong, in which he once again beat Robertson in the final.
It’s also a big week for David Grace and Kyren Wilson, who have each qualified for the final stages of a ranking event for the first time, proving that, whatever the system, it can be done.
Grace is a denizen of the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, one of the country’s oldest and certainly best clubs. He plays Barry Hawkins in the first round.
Wilson spent his 18th birthday doing a parachute jump, so can probably cope with the pressure. Indeed, he beat Shaun Murphy in Furth and provides the first round opposition in Shanghai for Stuart Bingham.
I think you only feel like a professional when you’re at a major venue, and travelling to China accentuates this. It’s a sign that you’ve arrived, but there is also much to get used to – jetlag, the red carpet treatment, playing conditions etc.
I suspect the snooker headlines this week will be dominated by the outcome of the Stephen Lee case, but the game goes on, and in Shanghai it has a great showcase. The action begins on Monday.