The second UK Players Tour Championship has been up and running since yesterday as the top pros join the fold tomorrow in Gloucester.
In the midst of the mayhem and madness that is the Olympics Games in London – coming to its conclusion this weekend – snooker’s long season continues at the South West Snooker Academy this week.
Despite his signing of the players contract earlier in the week, there’ll be no Ronnie O’Sullivan just yet and we still don’t expect to see the world champion until the International Championship in China in late October.
However, another four-time Crucible conqueror does make his first appearance of the campaign as Scotland’s John Higgins, refreshed and ready, embarks on another journey to Sheffield.
It has been an emotional couple of years for Higgins. Just over two years ago, at the conclusion of the 2010 World Championship, he was accused of bringing the game into disrepute for alleged match-fixing and handed a controversial six-month ban.
On his return, he swept all aside for the remainder of that year, capturing both the UK Championship and Worlds under dramatic circumstances while along the way suffering the heartbreak from the death of his father, who he was very close to.
Last season there was more loss, but this time a consistent source of defeat on the baize, most unusual for the former world no.1.
Higgins put it down to both a tired mind and a lack of the dedication necessary to put in the laborious hours on the practice table. At the end of the day, the 37 year-old is a family man and that has often come first for the Wizard of Wishaw.
So a summer break was what was needed and a seasonal holiday is what he has enjoyed.
How will this have affected him? Who knows yet! But if I had to make a prediction, I would suggest that Higgins will be back among the elite in the business end of events before long.
With his head focused on the job, there is no more dangerous an opposition with the exception of maybe the most talented player in the game in O’Sullivan. And even then it’s pretty close.
Higgins’ first victim, shall we say, is the unfortunate Ben Harrison – the Twitter favourite having come through two rounds of amateur qualifying with relative ease.
This could be Harrison’s moment with Higgins still cold but, on the other hand, Higgins could emerge into snooker’s own madness with an immediate point to prove. That match will be at the forefront of everyone’s attention.
There are several interesting ties in the last 128, too many to mention, but a couple to pick out are at the top of the large draw in Stephen Maguire’s Highland battle with Graeme Dott and Crucible runner-up Ali Carter’s clash with in-form Indian Aditya Mehta.