Mark Williams celebrates his return to the Dafabet Masters stage with a first-round clash to savour against Ronnie O’Sullivan on Tuesday.
The pair of longtime rivals are both now 40, and together with John Higgins who also turned pro in 1992 they have hoovered up a decent percentage of the silverware on offer in that time.
Wales’s Williams, back after a three-year gap at the elite event, has 18 of the 73 ranking titles won between them, and two of the nine Masters crowns they have racked up.
And yet without a trace of bitterness and with plenty of admiration, Williams knows that a poor record against O’Sullivan has cost him the chance of an even better CV.
In Higgins’ case the Scot has often been able to hold his own against the Rocket.
And Williams, Masters champion in 1998 in the famous ‘re-spotted black final’ against Stephen Hendry, and again in 2003, said: “I am sure if Ronnie hadn’t been around I would have won a good few more tournaments, but never mind. It tells you the ones you did win mean something.
“Obviously Ronnie, John Higgins and myself all turned pro the same year in 1992, so this is a 24th season.
“I don’t think it is quite the same for John, because his record isn’t too bad against Ronnie and he has beaten him a good few times.
“But because mine isn’t so good I am sure Ronnie has stopped me from winning at least another two world titles, he’s beaten me at the Crucible four times.
“I did finally get him in Chengdu just over a year ago ending a long run, 12 years – but we hadn’t played that often in big events, and he has missed quite a few.
“It was certainly good to get one over on him, even more so 6-5 in a decider as I’ve lost some of those to him.
“He always plays really well against me, he has admitted I make him play well which is my bad luck so I know how well I will have to play to have a chance.
“I don’t know about him being rusty. Look at what he did last week in the Championship League. This is a guy that took 12 months off and won the world title at a canter.
“I haven’t been there for a while and at the start of the season that was my main aim having made it back to the Crucible last season, another.
“But this was all I wanted having had some great moments at the Masters, and you never know now many more times you will be able to get back there.
“I will be enjoying it, have no doubt about that.
“You’d probably want anyone but Ronnie having made it, but I always had a funny feeling that he would end up playing, and that I would draw him.
“I haven’t beaten him many times certainly in the last 14 years, so another defeat wouldn’t make any difference!
“But I will give it everything, it will be an unbelievable occasion, and it has been sold out for weeks that game after his time out.
“There will probably be about four people wanting me to win and the rest for him, but that won’t bother me.”
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos