This year marks the 10th anniversary of Graeme Dott’s finest hour in snooker – an epic victory over Peter Ebdon to win the World Championship at the Crucible in 2006.
The 38-year-old from Scotland has a better record on the game’s biggest stage than many, having also reached two other finals, missing out on those occasions to Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson.
But for the third year in succession Dott, having fallen out of the elite top 16 guaranteed an automatic place, must brave the qualifying process – this year, for the second time, requiring three best-of-19 frame wins for even those ranked 17-32.
This change, made last year, drew and continues to elicit howls of outrage from those most affected, even if for some lower-ranked players it means fewer hurdles to get to the Crucible.
What is beyond argument though, and particularly for any players who have played in them or others who have been to watch, is that the next eight days at Ponds Forge will take place in an atmosphere of almost unmatched tension.
The prize is so big, the stakes so high. For young tour rookies there is the chance to play in the hallowed amphitheatre of the Crucible. For former world champions and senior professionals, they know just what they would be missing out on.
World No24 Dott of course saw fellow Scot Stephen Maguire scrape in for the second year in a row at the 11th hour with a strong display in Beijing, where he reached the semi-finals.
“You can’t enjoy the qualifiers, they are too important,” said Dott, who takes on amateur Stoke teenager Brandon Sargeant in his first test. “It is horrible pressure you are under because nobody wants the season to finish not at the Crucible.
“It doesn’t matter where they are played, or how you play, you just have to win the three matches. You just have to be in the main tournament.
“You can feel it among the players, and experienced observers notice the difference for the world qualifiers. It is a twitch-fest. It is not for enjoying, you just hope you win.
“I don’t even think experience makes it any better, because you know what is at stake – there is huge pressure on everyone.
“On paper it might look like someone has an okay draw, but it isn’t done on paper, if it was with my Crucible record I would be there. If I have an off day and the young boy plays out of his skin, I will lose.
“Stephen Maguire said the match he won in Beijing to get into the top 16 was the most pressure he had ever felt, and he has won ranking titles – so that shows you. It meant he didn’t have to be here with us.
“I still say the system for the world qualifiers is beyond belief, that No16 can be on £13,500 and No17 can be on nothing and have three qualifiers. Nobody apart from Barry Hearn thinks that is a good idea. And in fairness I said that right from when it was first announced.
“And worst of all being drawn on Wednesday I couldn’t be at Ibrox on Tuesday night to see Rangers get promoted, which I was devastated about! But hopefully it will all be worth it.”