The hugely-valuable Shanghai Masters gets under way on Monday with reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan back to defend his crown - read Richard Mann's outright preview here.
A fragmented start to the 2019/2020 snooker season finally gathers some momentum in China next week with the Shanghai Masters featuring all of the game's big hitters.
Ronnie O'Sullivan was imperious when picking up first prize last year, making seamless progress through the tournament before defeating Barry Hawkins 11-9 in a high-quality final.
Twelve months on, The Rocket is back for another crack at this huge prize fund but unlike this time last year, O'Sullivan no longer the super power of snooker with Judd Trump's astonishing dismantling of John Higgins in last season's World Championship final signalling of a new dawn in the sport.
Trump has certainly turned over a new leaf in the last year or so, reinventing himself into a different animal, a relentless winner and one of the very few who can take on and take down O'Sullivan, as he did in the Northern Ireland Open and The Masters finals last term.
Any fears that Trump would suffer from a Sheffield hangover were quickly brushed aside when he blitzed his way to victory at the International Championship in Daqing last month and he is expected to take some stopping once again next week.
Just to put Trump's form into context, he has actually won 12 matches on the spin since an early exit at the China Open last spring and not only does his almost peerless scoring make him such a tough nut to crack, his markedly-improved tactical play has taken his game to the next level.
Trump no longer needs to rely on an incredible long game and destructive break building to win his matches. He can now take on the very best in the safety department and as is so often the case with winning tournaments on a regular basis, he is able to find a way to prevail without always producing his best snooker. Trump now has a B-game.
The great thing about backing Trump nowadays is that if and when he meets O'Sullivan, you can be confident that he is one of the few players on the circuit who can put O'Sullivan on the back foot and given they aren't due to meet here until the final, the current world champion looks a bet at 3/1.
The fact he isn't due to meet O'Sullivan before the final in Shanghai is clearly another plus for Trump supporters and for all there are no easy matches in an invitational event as prestigious and valuable as this, Trump's performance at the recent International Championship suggests he should have too many guns for David Gilbert in his opening match.
He could then meet Mark Allen in the quarter-finals and from there, as we have seen so many times before, Trump can often prove an irresistible force once getting a sniff of silverware.
As for O'Sullivan, it is hard to gauge where he is at mentally given he has already said he isn't a definite starter at any of the Triple Crown events later in the campaign.
Still, the very fact that O'Sullivan came in from the cold to win this event last year is just another reminder of what a rare and special talent he is and the lack of game time might not be too much of a concern. As ever, his fortunes will depend on where he is at mentally.
He and Neil Robertson produced some of the most memorable moments of last season - their closely-contested final of the Tour Championship was a brilliant match in which O'Sullivan just prevailed - and the Australian is another obvious contender for the title here.
Robertson is fresh from a brilliant campaign last terms where he won three events and reached four consecutive finals.
He looked in good touch until reaching the third round of the International Championship and although he is due to meet O'Sullivan at the semi-finals stage next week, the 9/1 available about him winning the event is probably a touch too big.
The fact he could face John Higgins - his conqueror in the World Championship last season - in the quarter-finals is enough to put me off, though, and given the former's strong record in Asia, there will be plenty of people keen to chance him at 16/1 after he demonstrated that he is no spent force with that wonderful run to the final in Sheffield back in April.
Still, a top of half of the draw featuring the likes of O'Sullivan, Robertson and Higgins looks worth avoiding, reinforcing the earlier point that Trump has plenty going for him for a 3/1 shot.
I'm keen to back him accordingly.
Tournament draw bracket
- Ronnie O'Sullivan (1) v Ali Carter/Wildcard player
- Kyren Wilson (8) v Stephen Maguire/Xiao Guodong
- John Higgins (5) v Barry Hawkins/Yan Bingtao
- Neil Robertson (4) v Ding Junhui/Wildcard player
- Mark Williams (3) v Shaun Murphy/Lu Haotian
- Mark Selby (6) v Jack Lisowski/Wildcard player
- Mark Allen (7) v Stuart Bingham/Liang Wenbo
- Judd Trump (2) v David Gilbert/Wildcard player
Tournament takes place from September 9-15 and will be televised on Eurosport. Click here for full daily schedule, format, history and more.
Posted at 1230 BST on 06/09/19.