Ahead of the upcoming World Championship, let’s have a look at how the top 16 seeds have been getting on during the interrupted 2019/20 campaign.
David Gilbert’s season has very much been a tale of two halves, with the latter part of the term a disaster in terms of his rapid decline in form.
Gilbert’s unexpected run to the semi-finals of the World Championship in 2019, when he was narrowly denied in an almighty tussle with John Higgins that lasted the distance, provided the ultimate catalyst for a permanent residency inside the top 16.
His performance at the Crucible came after making two appearances in ranking event finals throughout the 2018/19 season.
Still, many queried whether or not he could sustain that level and continuously mix it with the big boys in the higher echelons of the game.
Gilbert failed to qualify for this season’s opener in Riga, but in the immediate aftermath his results indicated that the prior year was indeed no fluke.
Quarter-final appearances in the China Championship and World Open sandwiched an impressive run to the final of the English Open in October.
Yet, Gilbert had already built up a reputation of being the sport’s biggest nearly-man, so a crushing 9-1 defeat to Mark Selby that represented his fourth loss out of four in a title-deciding match didn’t do much to quell those suspicions.
The 39 year-old was again trounced by Selby in the last four of the Scottish Open, but two solid victories provided the Englishman with a modicum of success on his Masters debut at the Alexandra Palace in early January.
Just before that, there were signs that things were starting to go dramatically wrong for David Gilbert’s season, though.
A first-round defeat in the UK Championship was followed by failure to qualify for both the European and German Masters.
Then, after his 6-2 loss to eventual champion Stuart Bingham in London, Gilbert only won one more match before the COVID-19 lockdown.
Opening round exits in the World Grand Prix, Welsh Open, and Players Championship brought an abrupt stop to Gilbert’s progress, and he was perhaps one of the few players who, in snooker terms, appreciated the enforced break.
In this year’s edition of the World Championship, Gilbert is in the top half of the draw and could face the prospect of a rematch with Higgins as early as the second round next month.
A lot will probably depend on what kind of qualifier he gets in the last 32, because if he can get off to a comfortable start that could be just the kick start he needs.
Gilbert’s run last year was packed full of emotion, something that might be difficult to replicate this time around if there’s no crowd in attendance.
He’ll be intent on proving that 2019 wasn’t a one-off, and at this stage of his career he won’t have many more chances to challenge for the blue-riband title in Sheffield.