There had been wins at the invitational General Cup and also the Paul Hunter Classic for Ali Carter since treatment for cancer, but Sunday’s World Open success was at a different level.
A major ranking event with a 128-man field of the best players, a best-of-19 frames final, and a £90,000 first prize – this was the real deal.
And for a player that has suffered so much with health issues, not least two battles with cancer, it was in his own words a “very special” moment.
Carter, who led 8-3 and then 9-5, survived a late scare as Joe Perry mounted a fightback but the damage had been done early on.
And Carter it was who received the huge double boost of a fourth ranking title of his career, and also a place back in the top 16 of the world rankings.
When Carter was forced to take six months out for chemotherapy treatment his ranking was correctly if temporarily frozen, allowing him outings at the Masters and the Crucible in 2015.
But to have got back among the elite from his own efforts was clearly something that gave the 37-year-old from Essex a great deal of personal satisfaction.
The field in Yushan was a very strong one, lacking Ronnie O’Sullivan who was busy hustling in pool halls in the USA for a TV show.
But the rest were there, and Carter’s 5-0 whitewash of a rejuvenated John Higgins, apart from the 10-8 win over Perry in the final itself, was perhaps the most significant result of the tournament.
Carter said: “I am delighted, there was so much riding on this, a fourth ranking title and my top-16 place back. I was really focused all week.
“It feels fantastic, these events with 128 players from round one - they take some winning. And to emerge the winner from the week is very special.
“I was over the moon to make a great century break to win, anyone who has won a big ranking event will tell you how difficult it can be to get over the line.
“From where I was a couple of years ago to win this and get back in the top 16 is unbelievable, and it hasn’t really sunk in what I have done. I have been through a lot lately and it is a huge achievement.
“Looking at the field you might have said John Higgins was the man to beat, and I did, but there was also Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby out there. The strength in depth means there are many possible winners.
“I am looking forward to getting home but will be back in China for the Shanghai Masters, and look forward to defending the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany as that was another special win. That will be my next outing.”
It is a great example of fortitude in the face of great adversity. Competing again after such hardship is one thing. Winning a major title is quite another, and can serve as an inspiration beyond snooker.
Though Carter’s battles with cancer inevitably grab the most attention, the effect of the debilitating and also potentially life-threatening Crohn’s disease on his career should not be underestimated.
I once asked Carter, twice a Crucible finalist and a former world No2, straight out if he thought he would have won a lot more without his various health handicaps.
While an obvious and in Carter’s case potentially defining question, it is also a difficult subject to tackle for the player without sounding as if he was making excuses, or wild claims about the true level of his ability that were impossible to substantiate.
But without any self-pity Carter replied that he truly believed he was a good player; that his two losing world finals, both against O’Sullivan, had come against arguably the best player ever playing at or near his best; and that on top of all the demands faced by all professional snooker players, the medical treatment, pain, dietary requirements and travel issues stemming from his Crohn’s condition may have hampered his chances of improving his title tally.
Successes like the one in Yushan on Sunday obviously give added weight to the notion that with a clear run Carter might have done even better than he has, with even a world title if the cards had fallen slightly differently.
His current CV isn’t exactly too shabby anyway, and armed with the confidence from a big title in the bag early on and no points to defend for the next few months, Carter could be a dangerous animal on tour in the coming tournaments.
In my view a 'great matchplayer' is one that identifies weaknesses in his opponent, and adopts strategies specifically to win that game. Carter has that ability. He memorably did it against Stephen Maguire in the 2012 Crucible semi-final, basically allowing the much-fancied Scot to implode, and he did it again against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the World Open semi-final, not going for too much, letting the Thai miss, and then capitalising. It is great to see him back as a major ranking-event winner.