Stuart Bingham admits that at times he has struggled to cope with the added pressures and expectations this season after his Crucible triumph last May.
The 39-year-old claimed a fairytale first world title in Sheffield eight months ago, beating three former world champions and Judd Trump along the way.
It was a life-changing 17 days in the best campaign of Bingham’s life, in a career that flattered to deceive until a morale-boosting debut ranking-event success in Australia in 2011.
But having taken out Graeme Dott, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Trump and Shaun Murphy at the Crucible Bingham’s lifetime ambition achieved was warmly received by his peers.
As a player, Barry Hearn’s snooker revolution undoubtedly played into Bingham’s hands. The regular matchplay kept him sharp, and a ‘have cue, will travel’ attitude has seen him compete in more than most.
However a little like the season that followed his breakthrough victory Down Under, there has been a reaction this term.
There was a semi-final in Shanghai, a reasonable defence of that title, but by his own admission Basildon’s Bingham has not found it easy.
Bingham, who takes on Ding Junhui at the Dafabet Masters on Sunday night, said: “It has been hard on the table since winning the world championship. I remember when I won my first one in Australia I had a poor season following that.
“So maybe I am my own worst enemy in that I put extra pressure on myself after a great win or a title, and expect a lot more of myself.
“The first few tournaments this season I was feeling it a lot and struggling, but it is starting to come round and I am hitting the ball well again.
“It is just about getting the results, and I haven’t been doing that. I should be the most confident man on tour, but you lose a few matches and that confidence can go.
“Maybe I should have asked a former world champion or world No1 how they dealt with it – though they probably wouldn’t have wanted to help me!
“I would like to grab Mark Selby’s No1 spot, that is the next target in many ways but being world champion just can take time to get your head around.
“I was a pro for 20 years before it happened, and given how old I am and how many years I was in the wilderness for, maybe it was all too much for me for a while.
“I am trying to take it in my stride and hopefully I can have a good second half of the season.
“I want to add to my CV, and my goal is to win at least one tournament this season. I am striving, practising hard and going to all the events as usual for me.
“If I don’t win another thing I’d probably still be happy, but I am going to try my utmost to win more, maybe three, four or five more titles.
“It is the expectations that change. We all miss easy balls, and you find yourself wondering ‘Are the crowd and TV viewers thinking he’s world champion, and he can’t pot an easy black like that?’
“Being introduced as world champion you feel like you’re carrying the game on your shoulders in a way, and I need to live up to that and win another big title.
“Being world champion should be a big positive, but it’s how you manage your mind. I remember playing Higgins, O’Sullivan, Murphy when they were world champion and felt I had nothing to lose.
“I enjoyed playing them and just tried to play good snooker. I don’t think I’ve played badly this season, others have just been that bit better.”
The world championship win has seen Bingham receive invites he never would have thought possible, a recent appearance on a Question of Sport and recognition at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show being just two.
He added: “It is really just doing loads of things that I never thought I would do, and that would never have happened to me had I not won it.
“I loved going on the Clare Balding show – and then A Question of Sport. I got invited to a few football matches.
“Being in the Royal Box at Wembley last year to see Southend pick up the play-off final trophy and get promoted from League Two was amazing.
“I was invited to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, it these things that I have watched over the years that are special. It leaves you pinching yourself.
“It has opened all the doors, I have said yes to a lot, maybe too much - and that can contribute to raising the pressure and expectations.”
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos