After Judd Trump's brilliant victory at the Coral Players Championship, Richard Mann already has one eye on the World Championship in Sheffield.
Top Trump reigns supreme
It might be a stretch to suggest Judd Trump's current golden run has reached quite the same level of utter dominance over his peers that Stephen Hendry enjoyed through the 1990s, or the sustained period of success that Ronnie O'Sullivan, or even John Higgins, have managed in the last 30 years.
But he's getting there isn't he?
Last week's victory at the Coral Players Championship was his fifth ranking-title success of the campaign, making him only the fifth player after Hendry, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby and O'Sullivan to reach the milestone in a single season, and it would take a brave man to suggest he won't break that record at the forthcoming Tour Championship in Wales.
Along with that quintet of trophies Trump has claimed this term, the 30-year-old has also managed a final appearance at the Champion of Champions and three more quarter-final finishes in a brilliant run of form that has catapulted him to the top of the world rankings.
Trump's new-found maturity and ever-evolving safety game has seen him become a frighteningly tough nut to crack but most impressive in recent weeks has been his shot selection.
Trump was outplayed for large parts of his 6-5 semi-final win over Stephen Maguire in Southport last week, trailing 5-3 before mounting a superb late rally, but he kept his cool before producing an astonishing break of 70 to break the Scot's heart after the latter had built up a lead of 49 in the decider.
The final break was one of rare genius, one that few others in the game would be able to pull off, Trump twice manoeuvring reds off the side cushion into potable positions before ruthlessly closing out the match in fine style.
Key to the break, though, was the opening red that paved the way for the match-winning hand. With the white chained to the bottom cushion and Maguire sitting comfortably in his chair, Trump had few options but like all great champions, he sensed the moment to attack, eyeing up an incredibly tough red to middle.
In the circumstances, it could have been snooker suicide with the match almost certain to be lost had he missed, but, having fought his way back into it with solid, gritty, match-play snooker, excellent safety play mixed with his usual dose of fearless potting and impressive break building, Trump realised this was the time to attack, to back his talent and seize the moment.
Trump was now trusting his instinct, an instinct that has taken him to the top of the world and allowed him to come through plenty of potential crises in the last 18 months. There was no shying away from the challenge: he stared the pot and Maguire in the eye before finding a way to win the match, and then the title, in a manner that would have made the likes of Hendry, O'Sullivan and Steve Davis before them very proud.
Trump is very much 'the man' at present, and that sixth title of the season is surely only just around the corner, but the reigning world champion will be desperate to return and defend his Crucible crown, which surely remains his priority.
Sheffield can be relied upon to provide no end of challenges and obstacles at the end of a long and arduous season, and the likes of O'Sullivan and Higgins to name just two will once again be eyeing the ultimate prize in the snooker.
On the evidence of the last few months, though, Trump is going to take plenty of stopping.
Young Yan in the fast lane
Without dedicating too much time to last week's events in Southport, we must again reflect on another terrific performance from Yan Bingtao whose ascent up the world rankings is quite remarkable considering he has only just celebrated his 20th birthday.
Bingtao became the youngest player since fellow countryman Ding Junhui to win a ranking title when taking first prize at the Riga Masters back in July and he has gone on to enjoy a fine season.
Three semi-final appearances since, including at the UK Championship, have showcased Bingtao's strong all-round game while he needed heart and courage to hold off Joe Perry's resilient comeback in Southport before reaching the final with a brilliant blitz of Shaun Murphy in the semi-finals.
Bingtao is far from the finished article: his break building still has plenty of room for improvement and unusually for one so young, he can sometimes be accused of taking the safe option as opposed to taking the game on.
It's a policy we don't often see from the new generation but while he will surely learn to pick his moments better and continue to hone his craft in and around the black spot, making the required improvements when playing cannons and power shots, Bingtao's overall game has much more depth to it than many players of his age, past and present.
Of the wave of Chinese talent pouring into the game, Bingtao is currently the only one with the tactical nous needed to mix it with the best in the biggest tournaments on the calendar and when you consider how long it took the likes of Judd Trump and Murphy to develop the safety game needed to enjoy consistent success, it bodes well for his long-term future in the game.
Many of the elite players in snooker have reached their peak in their thirties - Trump turned 30 in August - so for Bingtao to rise to world number six in the one-year world rankings at 20 years of age speaks volumes about his talent and just how far advanced his game is for one so young.
Bingtao looks to have been blessed with a terrific temperament and the ability to thrive in pressure situations and as he gains more experience and the different facets of his game continue to develop, the sky really could be the limit for the Chinese star.
Given his playing style and strong all-round game, there is every reason to expect Bingtao to revel in the multi-session matches of the World Championship and while this year might just be a step too far for him at this stage, he could well go on to become the first Chinese world champion.
Bingtao has been slashed from 80/1 to 40/1 for this year's World Championship, a frustrating 'snooze you lose' moment for those to have had him on their Sheffield radar in recent weeks, but while he might not be a bet now, it will be fascinating to see how he shows up with the future in mind.
Has Robertson run his race?
While Judd Trump's breathtaking victory at last year's World Championship is sure to live long in the memory, it is easy to forget the highs and lows that the early part of the tournament threw up.
Ronnie O'Sullivan's to defeat at the hands of qualifier James Cahill was surely one of the biggest shocks snooker has ever witnessed while Neil Robertson quickly became heavy favourite on the back of rampant wins over Michael Georgiou and Shaun Murphy.
However, Robertson's heavy workload throughout the season looked to finally catch up with him when he ran out of steam in his quarter-final loss to John Higgins and, following another successful campaign this time around, there have been a couple of signs recently that the Australian might just be feeling the pinch again.
Robertson produced periods of perfect snooker as he reached three finals in the space of three weeks, winning the European Masters and World Grand Prix in-between coming off second best to Trump in a high-quality final of the German Masters.
His game could hardly have been in any better working order at that point but a fourth tournament in as many weeks, when defending his Welsh Open title, proved a bridge too far and he confessed to having 'nothing left' after being routed by Kyren Wilson in their quarter-final.
A short break before the Players Championship was well deserved but he produced a strange performance when losing to Joe Perry in the first round there, reeling off three wonderful centuries but also making a number of uncharacteristic errors that cost him the match.
Clearly, a first-round loss to a high-class operator like Perry hardly justifies alarm bells but Robertson enjoyed a brilliant run of form after Christmas last year before Higgins ground him down at the Crucible and with Sheffield not too far away now, it will be fascinating to see which version turns up at the Tour Championship.
The cancelling of the China Open, an event Robertson won in 2019, due to the coronavirus outbreak will give all the players more chance to freshen up before the World Championship this year but it would be unwise to underestimate the toll a heavy workload, littered with high-pressure finals, can have on players at the end of a long season.
What does Robertson have left in the tank? We're about to find out.