When Ali Carter won the German Masters in February it yielded a third world ranking title, the same number as Mark Selby and Judd Trump have each won (though Carter is ten years older than Trump).
Selby and Trump have (so far) each appeared in one world final. Carter has been in two.
It seems to me the Essex man is all too easily underrated. I dare say there will be some who would say he shouldn’t be among my ten contenders for the world title.
Well, he is. And here’s why...
There are some players better suited to the tests of a long tournament than others and I think Carter is one of them. His Crucible record – two finals and a semi-final – back this up.
I’m not going to discuss his illness because that is a private matter but it’s worth remembering that it has had affected him and continues to. It’s a factor which renders form and bare results misleading.
Carter isn’t always the most consistent of players but at the World Championship you don’t necessarily have to be. The matches are so long that the odd bad session is not always going to spell disaster.
For instance, last year he lost the middle session of his second round clash with Judd Trump 6-2 to leave him trailing 9-7. But Carter stood up to the pressure better when it mattered, in the final session, and from 12-9 down won 13-12.
He’s a player who seems to find bursts of inspiration. In 2010, he was 8-4 down to Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals but played four really good frames to make it 8-8 and won 13-12. A similar four frame spell came when trailing Neil Robertson 8-2 in the semis, although Robertson eventually won this match.
Carter’s big test this year could come in the second round against Ronnie O’Sullivan, his nemesis in two world finals and on plenty of other occasions.
However, this is surely his best chance to beat O’Sullivan on a big occasion. Ronnie has sat out the season. Carter has played solidly. He was a frame from reaching the UK Championship final, he won in Berlin and is match sharp.
If – and it of course remains a huge if – he did beat O’Sullivan then he would have the confidence and momentum to go all the way.
Carter is a combative character as befits someone who has had to fight harder than most. He doesn’t always paint the most cheerful picture of life on tour but is unfailingly honest in his opinions and motivations.
Last year, fuelled by Peter Ebdon’s organic carrot juice, he adopted a patient, safety-first approach for much of the championship, for which he needed and displayed great discipline.
But like all top players in this era, he can also score heavily. He’s made 25 centuries at the Crucible, only two fewer than Robertson.
Carter knows and probably accepts that he won’t be among the first five or six names put forward as likely world champions this year but he has the pedigree to be considered in the next wave of players who could ultimately prevail.
He has a genuine toughness of the sort you need to win a tournament so mentally testing and physically draining.