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.
While he has been consistent enough to place inside the top eight on the one-year rankings list, it would be hard to classify John Higgins’ season as a success.
The Scot has featured in numerous quarter-finals and a couple of semi-finals, but those aren’t the kind of results that a player of his stature strives for.
Indeed, as things stand this would be the first campaign since the 2011/12 term that Higgins will have failed to reach at least the final of a ranking tournament.
In what seems like a long time ago, Higgins partnered Stephen Maguire to glory in the 2019 World Cup and subsequently lost to his countryman in the final of the Six Red World Championship in Thailand.
Solid displays saw him then embark on runs to the last four in both the World Open and Northern Ireland Open.
But back-to-back defeats to Judd Trump, a player who he had previously enjoyed a good record against, perhaps indicated a shift in the guard within the game.
Higgins has lost to the world number one five times in just over a year, and indeed he has struggled overall against fellow top 16 members of late.
The second half of this season has been mediocre in the sense that the 45 year-old has rarely exited an event early, but neither too has he threatened to feature at the latter stages.
Indeed, Higgins looks a shadow of his former self, still a great fighter but not producing the kind of quality of old – at least not on a regular enough basis, particularly in the scoring department.
Time catches up with every player eventually, and even though Higgins has been wrongly ruled out several times in the past, it now seems like his best days are truly behind him.
John Higgins’ season will ultimately be defined, of course, by how he finishes it in Sheffield.
A four-time champion, the “Wizard of Wishaw” has come desperately close to adding to his impressive tally on his last three visits to the Crucible.
Final appearances in 2017, 2018, and 2019 all ended in painful reverses to Mark Selby, Mark Williams, and Trump respectively.
Higgins will attempt to become only the fourth player from the modern era to feature in four World Championship finals in succession at the Crucible.
He has defied the odds before, but if he were to challenge in the title decider again this year it really would be an unlikely feat.
Potentially in his favour is what appears to be a somewhat kinder quarter of the draw.
Every bracket is difficult in Sheffield and which qualifier he gets paired with will obviously be another factor.
However, with David Gilbert, Mark Allen, and Jack Lisowski for company in terms of the other seeded competitors, it does appear to be slightly more straightforward compared to the other sections.
Still, even though Higgins has conjured up so many last hurrahs at the Crucible in recent times, it just seems a stretch to imagine him doing it again.