Three years ago, Mark Selby rose to the top of the world rankings after securing victory in the German Masters and the Englishman has remained in the number one position ever since.
In the time that has elapsed since, the “Jester” has been laughing his way to the bank on numerous occasions with triumphs in many of the most lucrative tournaments on the calendar.
Two World Championship glories, a brace of International Championship crowns, and a UK Championship have all been added to the Leicester man’s impeccable cabinet of honours.
Selby’s 2016/17 campaign was so impressive that the 34 year-old earned almost one million pounds in prize money from ranking events alone and because of that remains the runaway leader at the summit of the standings.
Yet, this season hasn’t been vintage Selby in the slightest and, while his obvious loss in form was originally considered just a blip, this term is now in danger of transforming into one to forget.
The three-time world champion’s 5-3 defeat in the last 32 of the German Masters in Berlin on Thursday added to a growing list of early exits since last summer.
Indeed, Selby has only once made it beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event this campaign – when, in fairness to him, he did manage to successfully defend the International Championship in Daqing.
Disappointingly bowing out in the initial hurdles of both the UK Championship and the Masters in recent months, though, have served to heighten Selby’s woes.
Part of his problems began at the very start of the season when a freak accident resulted in a broken toe and led to him missing the first couple of events, but he curiously made the subsequent choice to skip both the Northern Ireland Open and the Scottish Open, which in hindsight he probably regrets as he struggles to rediscover his prowess of old.
Selby has claimed that, as the once dominant force, the lower ranked players have been raising their games against him in an effort to knock him off his perch.
The Englishman hasn’t really been playing awfully but has struggled to get out of second gear and is perhaps beginning to understand that he can’t rely on his mantle of being the master of brinkmanship on a full-time basis.
Selby’s ability to somehow regularly pull out victories from the jaws of defeat has been well documented but all that hard graft can be taxing on a player and there must be times when he wishes he could just steamroll some of his challengers.
It’s worth remembering that Selby has lulled us all into a false sense of insecurity before and largely went about his business quietly in the second half of each of the last two seasons before proceeding to emerge with a second and third world title.
Selby has built up a somewhat aura of invincibility at the Crucible over the last few years but, even so, he’ll surely be desperate to get over this slump between now and then.
Next up for Selby in February is the World Grand Prix, a tournament in which he has lost in the first round in each of the last two editions.