RONNIE O’Sullivan reckons the return of Ali Carter to competitive action has given the whole sport a huge boost.
The Rocket and world No13 Carter both line up at the Champion of Champions tournament this week at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
And for Carter, who has lost two Crucible finals to five-time world champion O’Sullivan, it is a first major event on home soil since treatment for lung cancer this year.
The 35-year-old did play in Hong Kong’s low-key invitation General Cup last month – and beat Marco Fu, Liang Wenbo, Mark Davis and then Shaun Murphy 7-6 in the final.
Carter also fought off testicular cancer last year and has suffered with Crohn’s disease throughout his career.
And he is guaranteed a huge reception against world No2 Neil Robertson on Friday after six months out.
World No4 O’Sullivan, 38, said: “Everyone in the sport was delighted mainly to see Ali back playing on tour, but also to be playing well like he was in Hong Kong.
“Ali is a top player and before he had the time away won three big ranking titles, been to two world finals and has got the pedigree.
“I’ll be honest I was surprised he actually won that General Cup just because of what he has been through and it being his first event back against other top players.
“But life is strange and can affect people in different ways, maybe you’ll see him with a new freedom and feeling in some way this is a second chance at his profession.
“I am sure he will have some new perspective on snooker and be looking to grab the opportunities that come his way even more.
“He might even get to express himself even more and enjoy playing more than he did before.
“I think the way Ali stayed so positive and open throughout his treatment was pretty inspiring and I’m sure any of the players would say the same.
“Please God he’s through all that now because how much bad luck can one fella have – two cancers and the Crohn’s disease, and he has still achieved what he has.
“He hasn’t had it easy in any way but has come through it fighting.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos