It was not surprising, given the emotional day he spent at Alex Higgins’s funeral on Monday, that Jimmy White was beaten in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers last night, but this should not detract from the performance of Liam Highfield, a talented young player with the skills to rise rapidly up the ranks.
Highfield was born in December 1990, a few days before White defeated Stephen Hendry 18-9 to win the World Matchplay, a prestigious invitation tournament shown on ITV.
White was at his peak during this period. He won the World Masters the following month and was a few months from a second successive Crucible final as part of a run of five in a row.
He is wrongly derided by some as a choker. Chokers don’t win as many titles as White.
Chokers don’t win the Masters in front of nearly 3,000 spectators. They don’t beat John Parrott over four sessions to win the UK Championship. They don’t win 10 ranking titles.
White’s failure to win the world title came down to a number of competing factors. The most prominent of these was the quality of his opposition: Steve Davis at his best, Hendry at his best and an inspired Parrott in 1991, not to mention Higgins's miracle break in the 1982 semi-finals.
Another was White’s own preparation. He never has been a fan of an early night but he must surely look back and chastise himself he didn’t shut out the crowd around him and dedicate himself properly to the task, especially in 1992 when he led Hendry 10-6 overnight.
It’s true the pressure got to him in 1994 - although not until the deciding frame - when he missed the black off its spot a few balls from victory.
There are many, though, who have never got close – and not just in snooker – to the heights Jimmy has achieved over the years.
I first met him when I started on the circuit. He was having a rough time of it and was hoping to begin the season with a win at the Grand Prix in Preston.
This was the pre-TV stage and, somehow, I had been roped into recording interviews with players for the BBC for them to play into their opening day coverage on the Saturday.
I was nervous. I didn’t know the players and I feared White would be difficult if he lost. Added into the mix was a father whose son was disabled, a big snooker fan and who wanted a picture with the Whirlwind.
As I was doing the interview I was informed it was probably best I dealt with this as well.
I wasn’t so naive that I couldn’t see I’d been landed with jobs others didn’t want to do but there was no getting out of it so I spent an anxious couple of hours watching the scoreboard ticking over and it became increasingly apparent that White was going to lose. And so he did.
I loitered backstage with my microphone. Jimmy came off and I introduced myself. I could see he was very disappointed and eager to get the interview over and done with.
I asked two questions but midway through his second answer the producer informed us the tape wasn’t running and we would have to start again. My hand probably shook as I put the microphone back under his mouth and we started again.
The interview over, Jimmy made a dash for the door. I asked him to wait. He wanted to know why.
I could see this ending in a row of some sorts, which was not the scenario in which I wanted to meet a player who had played a such huge role in me getting involved in the sport in the first place.
I told him there was a man with a young disabled son who would like a picture.
No problem, Jimmy said, bring him in. And he came in and Jimmy chatted to him, posed for a picture, signed his programme and said he hoped he would enjoy the tournament.
I don’t know where that family is now or if they still follow snooker but I’d be prepared to bet they’ve never forgotten that night.
Neither have I. That’s Jimmy White. That’s why the public love him and that’s why they will support him until he no longer has the breath to hold a cue.