110sport.tv produce a monthly online magazine called On-Q, which this month includes a particularly personal interview with Peter Ebdon, who has moved to Hungary following the break-up of his marriage.

You can read it here.



There is some light at the end of the tunnel for those Scottish players hoping to join the main tour next season.

You may recall the WPBSA withdrew the concessionary place following endless turmoil north of the border which has resulted in two different factions calling themselves the governing body.

But now the Snooker Players Association, a new body designed as a union for players - which had been the original function of the WPBSA - will decide on a process by which to award the place to a Scottish player.

Pat Mooney of the SPA and a WPBSA board member said: "I will be meeting with John Higgins and Alan McManus to discuss the formation of an overseer group and will be hoping to involve all those stakeholders in the game to ensure a clear understanding of the required process.

"The SPA has one single objective and that is to produce a worthy candidate to join the privileged ranks of the main tour. There will be no account taken for politics or current challenges with Scottish Snooker and the place will be awarded on merit.

"We anticipate the support of all potential candidates, the EBSA, Scottish Snooker Ltd, Sport Scotland and of course the WPBSA."

Scotland is a country that has produced four world champions and a host of other quality players.

Let's hope for the sake of Scottish amateurs and the future of the sport in Scotland that this new initiative is successful.



Here's what Steve Davis told the Kerryman newspaper this week about his infamous black ball defeat to Dennis Taylor in the 1985 World Championship final:

"It's only now you can look back on it and realise you were a part of sporting history. I would rank it above the six world titles I won."

Such sentiment seemed unlikely in the immediate aftermath of the final when he struggled to speak at all when faced with David Vine and his microphone.

John Virgo tells a story about putting his head round Steve's dressing room door to commiserate and finding him in floods of tears.

Time is a great healer and Davis can be content enough with his career to accept that this was one that got away, but that it's fondly remembered not just among snooker people but further afield.

There were 18.5m viewers still watching at midnight after all.

There will be much spoken about the 1985 final at this year's World Championship as it's the 25th anniversary.

In truth, though, it has come to be something of a millstone around the sport's neck because it gives feature writers the chance to trot out the tired old line that 'snooker never gets 18m any more.' As if any other sport does outside of really, really big occasions like an England match in the World Cup.

I'm surprised Steve ranks that final above his six Crucible victories, although he may mean it in terms of moments rather than triumphs.

I certainly hope it's not what he's remembered for because he was a great player - the best ever until Stephen Hendry came along - and should be celebrated for his achievements, which were many and glorious.

You can read the Kerryman's report of his exhibition with Taylor here.



How about this for controversy?

What's interesting is that the referee replaces the cue ball in the 'D' even though it has not left the bed of the table - the crux of the discussion last year when Graeme Dott used his fist to stop the white going in a pocket and Mark Selby was then penalised for picking it up.



This Friday sees the start of the qualifiers for the Betfred.com World Championship.

Yes, it really has come round that quickly.

There are in effect two World Championships: the one everyone watches on TV or at the Crucible and the dogfight to get there. The latter can often be more interesting and more exciting.

To not be at the Crucible as part of the 32-man field for the televised phase is to end the season in disappointment. I’ve known players literally leave the country so as to avoid the 17-day marathon, although with increased global TV coverage this gets harder every year.

The Crucible, which has just been refurbished, holds an iconic place in the hearts of snooker players everywhere. To experience its unique atmosphere is a goal in itself. To win the title there is a lifetime’s ambition come true.

The first day of qualifying, staged at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, sees a few ghosts of Crucibles past return for the pre-main tour round.

These are professionals who remain WPBSA members, among them David Taylor, the ‘Silver Fox’ who was one of snooker’s best known faces in the 1980s.

Taylor, now 66, last played in the World Championship 13 years ago. He last played at the Crucible 23 years ago. He was a semi-finalist there 30 years ago.

Why enter this year? Well snooker is, as with all players, in his blood. He won’t qualify but his participation will please nostalgics.

Taylor faces Bournemouth’s Paul Wykes in the first round.

Les Dodd competed at the Crucible three times, the last of which was in 1994. A former slimmer of the year, Dodd is not quite as svelte as he once was but is back for another go and plays Philip Minchin on Friday.

Barry West was so set on becoming a professional snooker player that he didn’t bother to go and pick up his O Level results.

He played twice at the Crucible, in 1987 and 1988, losing first to Ray Reardon (the six times champion’s last ever victory in Sheffield) and then to Doug Mountjoy. West meets Christopher Flight this week.

Four non-main tour players will face off against James Wattana, Jordan Brown, Michael White and Brendan O’Donoghue until we get down to the last 96 proper.

The final qualifying round takes place from March 7-9.

If you’ve never been to watch, I heartily recommend it. I’m not saying there’s tension in the air but there’s more twitching than you’d find in Bill Oddie’s holiday snaps.

There are six tables and you can watch at least three at once from the back of the badminton hall.

And there are many star names in action, including former champions John Parrott, Ken Doherty, Steve Davis and Graeme Dott as well as six times runner-up Jimmy White, twice finalist Matthew Stevens and younger faces pushing for top 16 inclusion, notably Judd Trump, Liang Wenbo and Ricky Walden.

This isn’t the World Championship you will see at the Crucible and by the time April 17 comes along the qualifiers will be all but forgotten.

But if you like your snooker tense, dramatic and – for some – heartbreaking then the qualifying atmosphere is one to be sampled.

Details of how to buy tickets can be found here.


Dennis Taylor and Willie Thorne took part in the BBC's Let's Dance For Sport Relief on Saturday where they strutted their stuff to Aerosmith and Run DMC's Walk This Way with darts stars Tony O'Shea and Bobby George.

Those of a sensitive disposition should not click here.



I thought, as we are in a quiet week, I would regale (or bore) you with a story from snooker’s past in the first of what is almost certain to be an irregular regular feature.

The year was 1998. Rex Williams was WPBSA chairman, Clive Everton was banned from press rooms (the latter information is related to the former) and at the UK Championship had to follow a trail of plastic chickens stuck to the floor by sponsors Liverpool Victoria that led from the venue entrance to the arena, never deviating in case he inadvertently ended up in the media centre.

We all thought it ridiculous but now it seems like a golden age.

Amid the political chaos, the Williams regime managed to get an extra ranking event on in Ireland.

There were, however, to be a few snags with the Irish Open.

The first was that it was not on television, the first ranking event for six and half years to be played without cameras.

The second was that it was played in a somewhat rough and ready area of Dublin, which led to the head of security spending much of his time chasing young miscreants around the arena.

The venue was a basketball arena. It would be fair to describe space backstage as limited.

At the time, I was working as WPBSA press officer, not a job to be coveted then or now.

I arrived in what I believed to be the tournament office, a small, poky room barely big enough to house the two tournament directors, one of whom informed me that, yes, it was their office but it was also to be the press room.

My colleague Phil Yates described it as “the TARDIS in reverse: it turns out to be even smaller inside than it looks.”

The thing was, the Irish media turned out in force to cover the event. Snooker has always been popular there and the press were full square behind tournaments.

The Irish journalists were extraordinary characters to a man, and woman. One would later be drunk for 27 hours straight at the Irish Masters, but that’s a story for another day.

To give you an idea of where snooker was at this time: the UK Championship finished at the end of November, some players went straight to Malta for an invitation event, won by Stephen Hendry, and then to Germany for another one, which John Parrott captured.

The next day John was sat at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin ready for the next tournament. That’s how it was in those days.

To add to the media circus, Ronnie O’Sullivan was back in action having mysteriously pulled out of the UK Championship a few weeks earlier.

It meant the Sun’s then snooker correspondent came over, plus various other British journos.

They were hoping Ronnie would lift the lid on his troubles and give them a big story. They were to be disappointed. He gave very little away (sensibly), lost in the first round and disappeared (with my pen as I recall, but I don’t hold it against him).

The Sun’s man was aghast. He’d been given loads of space for his story and had very few quotes to go on.

As luck would have it, Quinten Hann played the same night, wildly smashed the pack in one frame, lost 5-0, and then told the Sun reporter that he had booked his flight home before the match.

Job done.

The snooker, although few people saw it, was very exciting, helped by a bearpit atmosphere for some matches.

One such was for Peter Ebdon’s first round contest with Jimmy White. Obviously, 99% were cheering – vociferously – for Jimmy. Not only this, they were jeering – vociferously – against Ebdon, who kept his composure admirably until the final ball of his 5-4 victory, where he promptly turned to the crowd and shouted ‘come on then!’

He left by a side entrance.

In the next round he played Tony Drago, another crowd favourite. The noise for this one was extraordinary. Drago, often a bag of nerves, was playing extremely well at the time and won 5-4.

The crowd got so excited that a WPBSA official was called in to calm them down. His timid cry of ‘quiet please’ was heard, I would say, only by myself and Phil, who were standing next to him at the time.

Drago then played Hendry in the quarter-finals. Hendry led 4-2 but Tony enjoyed, to understate things a tad, some fortunate running in fighting back and in the end again displayed steely composure to win 5-4.

Remember, Hendry had lost 9-0 to Marcus Campbell in the first round of the previous ranking event and was thus not in the best of spirits generally, as I was to find out at the post match press conference.

It was clear from his general demeanour that Stephen was not especially looking forward to talking to the finest flowers of snooker journalism.

It was also clear that almost all of them were a little nervous of asking him anything.

An awkward silence developed that lasted for about 20 seconds but felt more like three weeks.

As I was in an official capacity, I thought I should break it and so ventured the following observation to the game’s greatest ever player: “Well, Stephen, you must be disappointed.”

The game’s greatest ever player fixed me with a look pitched somewhere between contempt and pity.

“Shrewd,” he said.

I can’t say it exactly cooled the atmosphere.

Someone else asked a question. Nothing from Hendry. Not a single word. Then someone else tried and...still nothing. A couple more questions followed but Stephen had had enough and we let him go.

As I pondered suicide, one of the Irish journalists examined his notepad and said, in a voice far too cheery for the occasion, “Well, it’s not going to be a quotes piece, is it?”

And so it went on. Absurdly, the venue had pre-booked a children’s charity bash for the Friday of the tournament and so all the tables had to be taken out and we had a ‘rest day.’

The next day they were all put back in. A few stray balloons were still stuck to the ceiling.

The final pitted Mark Williams against Alan McManus, the latter having been able to continue after I caught his cue just in time as it was sent crashing to the ground in the cramped tournament/press office.

Mark won. This was really the start of his ascent to the top because for the next four or five years he was in a string of major finals and of course won two world titles.

The Irish Open, however, did not return to the calendar.



It's very hard to follow in the footsteps of a famous parent.

Yes, it can bring advantages but the offspring will forever be compared to the father or mother and their own achievements will rarely be taken in isolation.

This week at Prestatyn, the sons of both Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry - the two most successful players of the modern era - are taking part in the Pontin's junior festival.

Greg Davis has entered the 15-20 age group event while Blaine Hendry competes in the 14 and unders.

It was inevitable given their upbringing that these two boys would become interested in snooker.

It would, of course, ask a lot for them - or anyone else for that matter - to emulate the careers of their fathers.

But their fledgling careers will doubtless provide moments of excitement for Steve and Stephen, who both had fathers committed to helping them on their way.

Bill Davis was for many years a permanent fixture at tournaments with his large cigar and amiable manner.

Gordon Hendry similarly shared the twists and turns of his own son's amazing career.

They were there before TV and fame and money, driving their sons to tournaments and equipping them with the tools to become top players.

The focus on young Davis and Hendry will be greater because of their lineage and this could lead to unfavourable comparisons through no fault of their own.

But they are at an age where they should just enjoy playing snooker - and leave the worrying to their dads.

Follow their progress at Global Snooker.



Stephen Lee has spoken about his arrest yesterday as part of a police probe into match fixing.

Talking to his local paper, the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, Lee said: "I got home really late last night. I will say that I was treated really badly yesterday, so I'm still in a bit of shock.''

Paul Mount of On Q Promotions, Lee's management group, said in a statement: "Stephen co-operated fully with the police inquiry and was released without charge. He does not expect any charge to be made and denies any involvement with cheating or betting irregularities.

"Stephen is now concentrating on practising hard to achieve qualification for the World Championship and to fulfil all of his exhibition commitments."

Lee is due to play in the Pro Challenge Series event at Liverpool next Tuesday and in the final qualifying round of the World Championship next month.


The WPBSA has released the following statement in the wake of Stephen Lee's arrest by police as part of a match fixing investigation:

"We are aware of the recent news articles concerning match fixing and are awaiting further reports.

"In instances where the Gambling Commission commences an investigation into a match, the WPBSA works together with the Commission to assist in its enquiries and the WPBSA will hold its own investigation open pending the conclusion. However, neither the Commission nor the WPBSA will release information surrounding a betting matter while an investigation is ongoing."


Reports in Friday's newspapers state that Stephen Lee has been arrested as part of an investigation into match fixing.

The Daily Mail quotes a police spokesman as saying: "A 35-year-old man from Wiltshire has this morning been arrested on suspicion of cheating. This follows a joint operation where WestMidlands Police have assisted the Gambling Commission, following their concerns about suspicious betting patterns."

Lee, the world no.25, has won four ranking titles and was a semi-finalist at the 2003 World Championship.

Regardless of what comes out of this case, these are hardly headlines snooker needs.



Stephen Hendry, who won a record seven world titles at the Crucible, will be among the special guests for the official re-opening of the theatre next week.

The Crucible has undergone a £15.3m redevelopment with a new stage, improved front of house facilities and remodelled bar area.

Prince Edward will officially re-open the iconic Sheffield venue, with Hendry invited as recognition of snooker's unique association with the theatre.

"The re-opening of the Crucible is a major boost for the city and the region. We are absolutely delighted to have the Earl of Wessex with us to celebrate the official re-opening. The theatre will once again be of huge benefit to the public with an excellent set of new facilities and new programme of dynamic and exciting work," said Dan Bates, chief executive of Sheffield Theatres.

Last season, a new deal was signed to keep the World Championship at the Crucible for the next five years.



The Sanyuan Foods China Open will feature eight invited wildcards alongside the top 16 and 16 qualifiers heading to Beijing next month.

Six Chinese players, a Thai and an Indian will take on the eight lowest ranked qualifiers in the wildcard round.

The Chinese players are Tian Pengfei, Yu Delu, Tang Jun, Lu Chenwei, Li Yan and Shi Shuamgyang.

Supoj Saenla will represent Thailand and Manan Chandra plays for India.

The tournament gets underway on March 29 with Peter Ebdon defending his title.

The format can be viewed on worldsnooker.com here.


‘There are no characters on the game any more’ is the tedious refrain often heard regarding snooker today.

Well, Neil Robertson is far more of a character – and a lot more attractive to watch – than half of the ‘personalities’ associated with snooker’s so-called golden age of the 1980s.

Last night, the Australian won group 5 of the Championship League and thus joins Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Judd Trump and Marco Fu in the winners’ group next month, the eventual winner of which will be in the Premier League next season.

Neil, laid back and without ego, is well liked on the circuit but, as is usual in Aussie sportsmen, possesses a fierce competitive streak once he’s out on the arena.

He turned up for his first match yesterday just four minutes before it was due to start. He had done similar in the Premier League itself last year and once went to the World Championship without his shoes and had to buy a pair 15 minutes before play began.

This doesn’t point to the best preparation but, on the other hand, it shows how relaxed he is. Some players shrink from the pressure, Robertson seems to thrive on it.

His run to the World Championship semi-finals last season gave a global dimension to what remains a UK-dominated event.

And he will go to the Crucible this season as one of the favourites to lift the title.

Snooker struggles as a participation sport in Australia because of the country’s favourable climate, which sees most youngsters take up sports that are played outside.

Robertson got into snooker because his father ran a club in Melbourne. He was talented from a young age. At 14, he became the youngest player ever to make a century break in an Australian ranking event.

He turned professional at just 16 and headed for the UK but found it tough financially and emotionally and was eventually relegated.

In 2003, he beat Liu Song to win the IBSF world amateur title and returned to the circuit.

Robertson set up home in Cambridge but found the British weather to be so cold that he struggled to get out of bed in the early days.

Progress was rapid. He won the Masters qualifying tournament to earn a Wembley bow in 2004 and shortly afterwards reached his first quarter-final, at the European Open in Malta.

He became the fifth Australian to play at the Crucible in 2005 and won his first ranking title in 2006 at the Grand Prix. He has since won three more and is yet to lose in a ranking tournament final.

This season, he did little wrong to lose 9-8 to John Higgins in the UK Championship or 6-4 to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Wembley Masters.

He lies third in the provisional rankings and has made more centuries this season than anyone else.

He also has a refreshingly postive outlook in a sport where almost everyone seems to have an axe to grind about something.

So Robertson, 28 tomorrow, seems to be at the peak of his powers and that can only be good for a sport that needs strong personalities, particularly from a country such as Australia where snooker has slipped into abeyance since the 1970s and 80s when Eddie Charlton was a big name.

His is a story that proves how hard work and talent can pay off.



The International Billiards and Snooker Federation – the world governing body for amateur snooker – is to stage a World Championship for the six reds game in April.

Six reds snooker is particularly popular in Asia. The World Grand Prix, first held in 2008, returns to Bangkok, Thailand in July and is expected to attract a field full of big name players.

Ken Doherty was among the organising committee for the inaugural Six Reds World Championship in Killarney last December.

The IBSF tournament is imposing some rule changes.

The miss rule is abandoned completely. After any foul, players will be given three options:

1) Play themselves from where the balls come to rest
2) Get their opponent to play from where the balls come to rest
3) Play from the D

This is not hugely revolutionary as players already have the option to play themselves or put their opponent back in from a foul.

Putting the white in the D does not guarantee any sort of advantage as it obviously depends on where the ball on is positioned on the table.

The option to put the cue ball anywhere – as in 9 ball pool – would have seen frames speeded up but possibly too much. There are, after all, only six reds on the table to start with.

The other major change is that all fouls will be worth six points, apart from on the black which will still be worth seven.

I’m not sure why this rule has been introduced but it may be that as the miss rule has been scrapped, fewer fouls are expected so they should count for more.

My attitude to six reds snooker has not shifted: I don’t want it to replace the established 15 red version of the game but I have no problem with any events that give players more competitive opportunities and increase interest in the sport as a whole.

Barry Hearn, the new WPBSA chairman, has said six reds do not feature in his plans for new events but this does not mean he will discourage anyone else putting them on, although the IBSF is an entirely different organisation.



The Championship League returns tomorrow with just three places remaining in the final winners’ group that will produce a qualifier for next season’s Premier League.

Already through are Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Judd Trump and Marco Fu.

Neil Robertson, Mark Williams and Peter Ebdon return for group 5 but Mark Allen is unable to play because he has been doing an exhibition in China.

That means an early call up for Ricky Walden alongside Jamie Cope, Dave Harold and Barry Hawkins.

Allen will return for group 6 on Wednesday with Joe Swail and Stuart Bingham.

The Championship League began in 2008 where it was shown on three betting websites. Such has been its popularity that it is this year being streamed on 12.

Uniquely there are no spectators, chiefly because there is no room for them. This means great shots and big breaks go unapplauded but the standard of snooker this year has been very high.

The venue is Crondon Park Golf Club in Stock, Essex where Bingham is a member (indeed I’ve spotted his name on the roll of honour for one of their competitions).

As there are still seven weeks (!) until the China Open, this is an ideal chance for the top 16 players to keep sharp and for those involved in World Championship qualifying to tune up their games for the most nervy part of the season by far.

More details at the official website here.



Five years ago this April, Ding Junhui beat Stephen Hendry 9-5 to win the China Open in Beijing.

If Dennis Taylor v Steve Davis in 1985 was the high watermark of the UK snooker boom, so this match will be remembered as significant in the story of the sport in China.

Had Ding not won, who knows whether snooker would have enjoyed the success it has in the world’s most populated country?

Barry Hearn, now the WPBSA chairman, led forays to China in the early 1980s and the first ranking event was staged there in 1990 but it was nine years until the second.

After the 2002 China Open, none more were held there until 2005. That tournament was a one-year deal but Ding’s success has seen two ranking events, fully funded by the Chinese, added to the calendar.

This weekend, Ding plays Hendry again in a best-of-25 frames ‘East v West’ exhibition match to be screened live on Chinese television and online around the world.

Hendry has said in the lead up that he expects Ding to become world champion. I agree with him, although, of course, this doesn’t mean anything. There are plenty of talented players who have never won the Big One, despite predictions to the contrary.

Ding has already won two UK Championship titles but does he have the temperament to last 17 days at the Crucible?

To win the World Championship, a player needs vast reserves of mental stamina to cope with the unique pressures Sheffield produces.

For Ding, this is multiplied by the fact that there are many, many millions following his every shot back home.

But it’s noticeable that his fortunes have improved this season just as Liang Wenbo has broken through as a likely top 16 player.

Liang’s progress has maybe spurred Ding on and perhaps removed some of the pressures a lone flag bearer would feel.

He seems single minded in the same way Hendry was and his shyness masks an inner steel.

It seems possible that he can in future emulate some of Hendry’s achievements, although it’s unlikely he will overtake them.

Then again, it’s unlikely anyone else will either.



The World Series event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia scheduled for March 6-7 has been cancelled.

Organisers say this is because Eurosport have been unable to obtain the necessary licenses to broadcast from the Middle Eastern kingdom.

The same scenario has occurred for golf tournaments in Saudi so I am not disputing this explanation.

However, the fact remains that World Series has failed to deliver on its early promise.

It was launched in 2008 by John Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney. The idea was to capitalise on the growing popularity of snooker in Europe by promoting a series of two day invitation tournaments in various countries.

A deal was signed with Eurosport, the main reason for snooker’s growth on the continent, and four events were staged.

These were generally regarded as a success. The tournaments were laid back affairs which gave the snooker public a chance to get closer to the big name players.

In 2009, a grand finals was held in Portugal. Two further events have been staged since but there is currently no schedule indicating any more tournaments.

One of the stated aims of the World Series was to develop local talent in each country it visited.

This is laudable but it resulted in a series of mismatches between top players and local amateurs, who were always going to be outclassed.

Reducing frames to six or ten red contests could not prevent the one-sided nature of most of the matches.

Top level sport has to be competitive to maintain the interest of television audiences. One slap after another was never going to do this.

World Series organisers did not enjoy any support from the WPBSA. Indeed, certain figures from the governing body gave the impression they couldn’t wait for it to fail.

Ultimately this attitude backfired because Mooney helped to orchestrate the coup to remove most of them.

However, his own enterprise faces an uncertain future. I think he would admit that he underestimated the sheer difficulty - not to mention money – involved in getting a venture like this off the ground and then keeping it going.

Newly installed WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn has pledged to work with World Series bosses and use any future tournaments as a ‘battering ram’ to get snooker into countries where it is popular.

I hope he ditches the local element and instead takes eight top names to each country to ensure a competitive event.

Perhaps the leading amateur could play Higgins in a big exhibition the night before each event begins? This would work as a way of launching each tournament and incorporating a local element without detracting from the event itself.

A model could be the Masters series in tennis – though this would take years and years to emulate – and effectively develop an invitation circuit for the top players alongside the ranking circuit.

This may look like two fingers up to the lower ranked players but everyone has the same chance to become a top player. You do it by winning matches/tournaments.

The World Series can only obtain credibility by developing a proper structure – with an order of merit – so that it means something to the wider public, rather than existing as a series of dislocated events.

I wish Higgins and Mooney all the best with this and am sure Hearn will do his best to revitalise the project. Regardless of its problems, World Series is still a good idea.

But without actual tournaments, this is all it will remain.



Former professionals and BBC snooker commentators Dennis Taylor and Willie Thorne are among the celebrities taking part in Let's Dance in aid of the Sport Relief charity.

Taylor and Thorne, two former contestants on Strictly Come Dancing, will be joined by ex-England footballers Peter Shilton and Rodney Marsh, actors Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph and comedians Katy Brand and Jenny Eclair.

The programme begins on February 20 on BBC1 and is presented by Steve Jones and Claudia Winkleman.

The series was won last year by comedian Robert Webb - who plays a snooker commentator in sketches for the BBC's Mitchell and Webb - who performed a routine to Flashdance.



In capturing the totesport.com Welsh Open title for a second time last night John Higgins once again demonstrated that he is the best player in the world right now.

The way he raced into a 5-0 lead was an emphatic exhibition of top quality snooker. Ali Carter fought back a little but the comeback never really looked on.

It was Higgins’s second title and fourth final from the last six ranking events. He appeared in the semi-finals of the other two.

He also has the upper hand currently over the game’s other leading force, Ronnie O’Sullivan, having beaten him four times in five meetings this season.

These two 34 year-olds are a distance ahead of the rest in the provisional rankings.

Higgins in particular seems to be playing just as well as he was a decade ago when he, O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry were all producing high quality snooker as the sport’s bona fide top four.

Indeed, these four have between them won 15 of the last 20 World Championships and held the no.1 spot in the rankings for the last two decades.

Higgins’s first Welsh Open success ten years ago came before marriage and fatherhood. These happy events undoubtedly caused him to lose some of his focus but, as he said himself, “When I’m on my deathbed I won’t be thinking, ‘I wish I’d spent more time on a snooker table.’”

O’Sullivan will now have to do better than Higgins at the China Open otherwise the Scot will have the no.1 spot sewn up before the Crucible.

His continuing success proves just how good he is. And as world champion, snooker is fortunate to have him.

John is not only a great player but a good guy too: friendly, unaffected by his status and willing to do his bit for the sport as a whole.

Can he win a fourth world title? On this form, absolutely.

And he and O’Sullivan are in opposite halves of the draw for this year’s Crucible event.

Yes, snooker needs new faces but that would be a final to relish.