For the last decade, Barry Hawkins has been a player who has performed well below his potential.
While still forking out a decent career for himself, the 33 year-old has failed to ever really establish himself as one of the main men on Tour.
He was ranked as high as 12 during the 2006/7 season and had reached four ranking event semi-finals before today – now five, having seen off the challenge of plucky Matthew Selt, a player in love with the Australian Open.
The 5-3 victory in the event Down Under gives ‘The Hawk’ the amazing opportunity to achieve something he has never done before and reach a big-time final.
In many ways, his positive run this week mirrors that of fellow Englishman Stuart Bingham last year when he emerged with the title and newly garnered stature among the game’s elite.
With so many more tournaments on the calendar, players further down the rankings who have always had the talent but never the industry to ultimately be successful are not gaining the chance to turn their careers around.
Before, when there were only a few events, the pressure to gain ranking points and earn as much money as possible was extremely intense, with their livelihood at stake.
Now, though, players are free in the knowledge that, well, if they don’t do well this week there’s always next week. And this has bred a new-found sense of confidence and freedom in their play.
Hawkins’ resurgence is relatively minor in comparison to Mark Davis, who turns 40 next month and is in the form of his life.
Before this season Davis had never reached a last four in a ranking event. Tomorrow will be his second.
Davis began playing more consistently following his maiden 6-Reds World Championship in 2009 but his displays in the last month – coinciding with his second 6-Reds title – has arrived at entirely new levels.
In the bottom half of the draw, there is a more distinct presence of experience in the business end of tournaments.
Peter Ebdon produced another stellar display to see off Shaun Murphy 5-4 – Ebdon’s third successive final frame decider of the week.
Ebdon again played slowly but players will just have to learn to accept this from the former world champion and Shaun Murphy, as ever, was gracious in defeat.
Having only just claimed his ninth ranking event trophy at the China Open in April, Ebdon could be about to join Jimmy White on 10 if he can manage another couple of wins.
His first challenge will be Marco Fu after the Hong Kong star shocked Stephen Lee 5-1.
On his day, Fu is one of the most dangerous players on the circuit but off it and he can be one of the worst – with the latter gaining more exposure than the former in recent years.
However, the former Grand Prix champion and Masters finalist has appeared in much better knick and, a bit like Hawkins, it is a fantastic opportunity for Fu to add to a trophy cabinet that many believe has been far too barren throughout the years.