The Shanghai Masters gets under way today in China with several of the sport’s top stars competing for the 80,000 pounds top prize.
The season has been ongoing since the end of May but September is often regarded as the month in which the campaign gathers pace.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Perhaps most of all is the fact that the ninth month of the year was traditionally the starting date for a season.
This changed with the influx of new tournaments under the Barry Hearn regime but snooker remains very much a winter sport.
Although there are now many events during the summer, the flow can feel a little stagnated from a mixture of weeks where there’s no action and also the general interest from fans just isn’t quite as high.
From now until the end of the season, the calendar is stacked full with tournaments and, of course, players will be building up for the World Championship in Sheffield next April.
The Shanghai Masters has been a permanent fixture since 2007, when Dominic Dale took the honours against fellow Welshman Ryan Day.
Despite not being the oldest of all the Chinese events, of which there are now many, the Shanghai Masters is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best.
In my opinion, it certainly trumps the China Open in Beijing and maybe its only rival in that country is the fledgling International Championship – which could one day be labeled as the fourth major.
The Shanghai Masters is every bit as important to the players, though, which is highlighted by the roll of honour.
After Dale, Ricky Walden, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ali Carter, Mark Selby and John Higgins, who is the defending champion, have all etched their names on the trophy.
Of those, Dale and world champion O’Sullivan are absent. The former failed to qualify while the ‘Rocket’ opted to sit this one out – a decision he later openly regretted.
However, the field is still mighty strong.
Sadly, the wildcard round is still in existence meaning that eight of the qualifiers must tackle an extra round against hungry home opposition.
Inevitably, one or more of the pros will get beaten, which for a tournament in its seventh year is ridiculous.
Every time there are wildcards I repeat the same thing so it may come across as a broken record.
But, in actual fact, it needs to be highlighted every time so eventually the powers-that-be listen and change accordingly.
Wildcards are fine in countries that are new to the sport or when a tournament is getting off the ground. Neither boxes can be ticked in this case.
There are many interesting ties in the early part of the week but possibly the most eagerly awaited one will be Mark Davis’ match with former winner Carter.
This would not usually stand out as a hot contest but Davis has been the undoubted man in form of late.
The Englishman claimed his third 6-Red World Championship last week and on Saturday collected another trophy when he beat world no.1 Neil Robertson in the final of the General Cup, an invitation event, in Hong Kong.
It’s taken him the best part of 20 years but the 41 year-old is beginning to realise his full potential and has been superb over the last 15 or so months.
If he can overcome what is a very tricky obstacle in Carter, Davis could be in with his best opportunity of reaching a ranking event final for the first time.
There’s a long way to go for that, though, and the likes of Robertson, Selby, Judd Trump and many more will have a lot to say on the matter.
Either way, today effectively marks the occasion when the snooker season really begins to pick up pace.
As ever, I’ll be here to cover as much as I can.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.