The climax to the China Open later on Sunday will simultaneously signal the imminent beginning of the sport’s blue riband tournament on the calendar.
The top 16 seeds will be determined and on Wednesday the World Championship qualifiers at Ponds Forge will get under way, as 128 hopefuls make a bid to be among the additional 16 competitors at the Crucible in 2017.
It’s 40 years since the first World Championship in Sheffield and it’s sure to be a celebratory occasion for those who manage to get their names into the hat before the last 32 draw is made in less than a fortnight.
Young Irishman Josh Boileau, coming to the conclusion of his rookie campaign as a professional, knows that three victories would be enough to see him fulfil a dream of playing in snooker’s theatre of dreams.
Overall it’s been a difficult debut season for the Kildare cueist on the circuit, who has so far failed to win three times in succession, but it continues to be a learning curve for the 21 year-old who captured the European Under-21 Championship just over a year ago.
“I’ve mixed feelings about the season up until now really,” said Boileau, who reached the last 32 in both the Northern Ireland and Welsh Opens.
“Missing two events at the start of the season didn’t help as well. I’ve won a few matches which is great but I’ve let a few matches slip through my fingers which I should have won.”
“That would have changed my season from inconsistent to being pretty decent, but that’s what you’d expect from your first year on tour, getting to grips with everything.”
Boileau finds himself outside the top 100 in the world rankings but he has another year left on his initial tour card, so will be looking for a strong finish to this term in order to give him a boost heading into the next, when he’ll undoubtedly be focusing his efforts into breaking into the world’s top 64.
This season’s highlight was arguably his 4-2 defeat of Shaun Murphy in Cardiff and he’ll be attempting to build on that confidence as he heads to Ponds Forge for the World qualifiers.
“My preparations for Sheffield are going good,” added Boileau, who lost to Matthew Stevens 10-2 in the opening qualifying round last season after being invited to compete following his European glory.
“I’ve been putting in the hours everyday as I’ve had a few weeks more to prepare with not qualifying for China.”
“There’s nobody really that I’d say I’d prefer to avoid in the draw – every game is going to be against a great player.
“All I’ll be doing is trying my best and focusing on trying to get as many wins under my belt as possible.”
Boileau, like the rest of us, eagerly awaits the World Championship qualifying draw.