Maybe the demands of a long, hard season are catching up with a few of the players with both world No1 Neil Robertson and world No3 Ding Junhui, two of the undoubted men of the current campaign, suffering with illness during their first-round defeats in Preston. With the China Open following fast after this tournament, a few extra days recovery might not prove the worst thing in the world for either player – especially given the proximity of the World Championships just over three weeks away. It is there that both will want to peak, something they failed to do 12 months ago.
Robertson is just one of the top players who may be looking to follow Ronnie O’Sullivan’s example and attempt to be in peak condition for the major tournaments rather than play in just about everything in a mad scramble for points and money. Admittedly, a luxury that is far easier for a player to indulge with recent tournament successes and a few quid in the bank behind him. Michael Holt was another pleading “the worst case of man flu”, a state of distress not helped by the turmoil surrounding his beloved Nottingham Forest who sacked manager Billy Davies this week with their play-off chances starting to fade away.