Ding Junhui may be the most maddeningly difficult player to predict among the elite.
Few would argue he is one of the best break builders in the game. He has won plenty of titles and is capable of world class snooker.
At other times it just isn’t there. He has struggled back home in China and his Crucible record isn’t great: only once has he been past the second round in six previous appearances.
That was two years ago when he lost 17-15 to Judd Trump in the semi-finals. This was a terrific match and appeared to point to Ding settling down at the Crucible, a venue he had seemed to have problems with.
But then last year he was beaten 10-9 in the first round by Ryan Day, squandering a 9-6 lead. He was so upset that he swore – in English – during the press conference that followed.
So how will he go this year?
Nobody who witnessed his phenomenal performance from 3-0 down to beat Neil Robertson 4-3 in the final of the PTC Grand Finals in Galway last month can be in any doubt about just how well Ding can play.
This was about as good as snooker gets, particularly as it came against a top drawer opponent.
In fact, Ding played superbly all week in Galway. The obvious point to make, though, is that all the matches were best of seven sprints. A different temperament altogether is required for the 17 day marathon in Sheffield.
Here, mental cracks are brutally exposed. It’s not about short bursts of inspiration but concentrated stamina over long distances.
Ding suggested in 2011 that he was up to this. He didn’t do much wrong to lose to Trump.
Many would agree that he’s due a good Crucible run but that doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that he will have one.
It certainly doesn’t help that he’s landed in the Quarter of Death alongside Mark Allen, Mark Selby and Lord knows who else once the draw is made. It seems he will have to play well right from the off.
If Ding won the world title it would prove to his Chinese fans, so often disappointed by his displays on home soil, that he’s the real deal.
Everyone else knows that he is capable of producing the kind of snooker you need to win the game’s greatest prize. To do so, though, he must sustain it over long periods and be determined to fight like he’s never fought before.