RONNIE O’Sullivan admits that the German Masters will always be a special tournament for him after a 2012 title success that transformed his ailing career.
It is getting harder to remember exactly the state O’Sullivan had got himself in to back in 2011, but the retirement threats were starting to sound a lot more genuine.
The Rocket, despite his three world titles at that time, felt unfulfilled and incapable of producing snooker of which he was proud, hampered by various bits of mental clutter and baggage.
Extremely reluctantly he agreed to meet with Dr Steve Peters, who had worked so successfully with the GB cycling team and had got the best out of notoriously challenging talents like Vicky Pendleton.
But in February 2012 that early work had yet to show any tangible rewards or benefits, and O’Sullivan’s confidence and belief after two and a half years without a ranking title win remained brittle.
However the now famous first-round match against Andrew Higginson where he trailed 4-0 but won 5-4 proved the springboard to a title charge in Berlin, and back to back world titles.
And whatever happens in the Tempodrom this week O’Sullivan suspects that much of his subsequent success was a direct result of that triumph.
He said: “Looking back I didn’t think that victory was going to come. I was happy to be there and winning had gone to the back of my mind.
“But winning that title the way I did gave me the belief back that I could win at that ranking tournament level – so it was massive for me, really huge.
“I was patient and it showed me I was still capable of winning big tournaments, and ever since things took off for me again.
“It was almost like the end of the road for me at that time, I had said I would quit and I meant it. Even in the event I was 4-0 down to Andrew Higginson in the first round.
“He had chances to win, and was very unlucky but I scraped through 5-4 and went on to win, and then the world championship three months later.
“Would I have won the world title and everything since without what happened in Germany? I very much doubt it, it gave me the belief back at that level.
“It was career-changing because I was doing very little but ever since I have to some extent dominated and won a lot of big titles.
“Berlin is where it all came together, and where I first saw definite results of the early work with Steve Peters. At the time I had massive doubts about myself and whether I could still compete.
“But working on not dwelling too much on big defeats helped me.
“And so I am always going to have a soft spot for Berlin and Germany – both for 2012, but also because I love the fans and the atmosphere out there.
“They are some of the most polite and respectful people anywhere, the Tempodrom is a great venue and I like being there. It’s a great city as well.”
O’Sullivan also knows that Germany would benefit hugely from having a figurehead player to rally around – with teenager Lukas Kleckers, doing exhibitons during the event, tipped for a big future.
He added: “Germany are desperate for a young star to emerge, and some people might think that would put an unbearable burden on that player with the pressure and expectation.
“Ding has had it in China and struggled a bit early in his career coping.
“But I would love to be the only really good player from a country and have the whole nation cheering you on. It must motivate you so much.
“Snooker is a precise sport like golf, and the game now just needs their Martin Kaymer to burst through and take it to the next level.
“He has done for German golf what Bernhard Langer did in a previous era, and every sport needs that superstar- but it can take a generation.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos