RONNIE O'SULLIVAN begins his bid for a sixth world title against qualifier David Gilbert at the Crucible in Sheffield today.
The Rocket - previously champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2013 - is an overwhelming favourite, not only in his first round match but for the tournament as a whole.
In fact, O'Sullivan is generally as short as 7/4 with most bookmakers - and, undoubtedly, he remains the biggest draw in the sport.
Paradoxically, though, his continued dominance is not particularly healthy for snooker as a whole.
A post-Ronnie era has yet to emerge even though O'Sullivan is now aged 40 - and, while this has much to do with his own fitness from his regimented healthy lifestyle, even the Rocket has expressed some frustration with the competition.
In 2013, O'Sullivan won his fifth world title, defeating Barry Hawkins 18-12 - despite having spent a whole year outside of the game.
Afterwards, he said: "The standard's great. Look at the way Barry (Hawkins) played in the final. But what you are lacking is someone who adds a bit of pizazz.
"I think every sport needs someone like Alex Higgins or Eric Cantona, it's about the characters.
"They're all nice guys and all good boys, but it needs someone to get in there. Some of them are trying to do it but it's just not natural. You need someone like me who just comes out and does my thing."
Earlier this year, at the Masters at Alexandra Palace, Hawkins was on the end of another beating by O'Sullivan who delivered a 10-1 thrashing in the Final.
Speaking as part of a generation which includes fellow former world champions John Higgins and Mark Williams, O'Sullivan said: "We have kept our level high and are waiting for someone young, or two or three, to come through and take it away from us – but it doesn’t seem to be happening."
Perhaps that is a little unfair on the likes of world number one, 2014 champion Mark Selby, or 2010 champion Neil Robertson.
But even fans of the Jester from Leicester would have to agree that he often grinds his way through games, a style which led to O'Sullivan labelling him as "The Torturer".
Meanwhile, Robertson himself is no spring chicken at 34 years old - and another one-time emerging force in the sport, Ding Junhui, has so badly lost his way that he was forced to qualify for the tournament this year.
Instead, the most likely heir to the title of fans' favourite remains Judd Trump, the 26-year-old who was runner-up to John Higgins in 2011.
However, a searing lack of consistency blights the Bristolian's game - though, last year, he was unfortunate in losing to Stuart Bingham in the deciding frame of a classic Crucible semi final.
Bingham, of course, went on to win the title - beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in the Final - but already it has been assured that there will no repeat of that outcome this year.
The Crucible Curse - which determines that no first-time champion has ever successfully defended their crown at the venue - struck again on the opening day as Ali Carter won a decider.
Carter - a two-times runner-up - was always going to be a tough opening opponent for Bingham - and, while the latter has been a gracious and gentlemanly world champion, the result is not actually that big a shock.
For Bingham, as lovely a bloke as he seems to be, was hardly a big name champion.
Indeed, the only time that snooker has made it onto the back pages of the newspapers this year was when O'Sullivan controversially decided against making a 147 at the Welsh Open in February.
This was nothing new for O'Sullivan who had previously almost turned down a maximum at the World Open in Glasgow in 2010 before being convinced by referee Jan Verhaas on that occasion to complete the break.
But there was nothing which could convince O'Sullivan in Cardiff this year - and, while his unusual 146 break earned snooker some rare backpage headlines, it was not exactly the finest moment for the sport.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn recognised that and described O'Sullivan's action as "unacceptable" and "disrespectful".
However, Hearn is well aware that, although there is no single player bigger than the game itself, the Rocket comes close to holding that status.
Not that this necessarily means the bookmakers will be right. The World Championship at the Crucible is a 17-day event, a psychological marathon which tests every sinew in a survival of the fittest.
Therefore, it would be no surprise if a battler and a grinder like O'Sullivan's torturer Selby prevailed again.
Whatever happens, though, the action at the Crucible usually makes for epic viewing with coverage provided by the BBC and Eurosport throughout.
Best of 19 frames
|(1) Stuart Bingham||9-10||Ali Carter|
|(16) Stephen Maguire||7-10||Alan McManus|
|(9) Ricky Walden||10-8||Robbie Williams|
|(8) John Higgins||10-3||Ryan Day|
|(5) Judd Trump||10-8||Liang Wenbo|
|(12) Martin Gould||8-10||Ding Junhui|
|(13) Mark Williams||10-4||Graeme Dott|
|(4) Neil Robertson||6-10||Michael Holt|
|(3) Shaun Murphy||8-10||Anthony McGill|
|(14) Marco Fu||10-2||Peter Ebdon|
|(11) Barry Hawkins||10-5||Zhang Anda|
|(6) Ronnie O'Sullivan||10-7||David Gilbert|
|(7) Mark Allen||10-3||Mitchell Mann|
|(10) Joe Perry||9-10||Kyren Wilson|
|(15) Michael White||7-10||Sam Baird|
|(2) Mark Selby||10-6||Robert Milkins|
Best of 25 frames
|Ali Carter||11-13||Alan McManus|
|(9) Ricky Walden||8-13||John Higgins (8)|
|(5) Judd Trump||10-13||Ding Junhui|
|(13) Mark Williams||13-8||Michael Holt|
|Anthony McGill||9-13||Marco Fu (14)|
|(11) Barry Hawkins||13-12||Ronnie O'Sullivan (6)|
|(7) Mark Allen||9-13||Kyren Wilson|
|Sam Baird||11-13||Mark Selby (2)|
Best of 25 frames
|Alan McManus||13-11||John Higgins (8)|
|Ding Junhui||13-3||Mark Williams (13)|
|(14) Marco Fu||13-11||Barry Hawkins (11)|
|Kyren Wilson||8-13||Mark Selby (2)|
Best of 33 frames
|Sat 2.30pm*||Alan McManus||10-14||Ding Junhui|
|in play||(14) Marco Fu||9-10||Mark Selby (2)|
143 Kyren Wilson
141 Barry Hawkins
140 Michael Holt
139 Ronnie O'Sullivan
138 Marco Fu, Ding Junhui
136 Marco Fu, Alan McManus
135 Marco Fu
134 Mark Selby
133 Mark Selby
132 Mark Selby, Ding Junhui
131 Ding Junhui
130 Kyren Wilson
129 Kyren Wilson
128 Alan McManus, Ding Junhui
125 David Gilbert, Alan McManus, Mark Selby
124 Ronnie O'Sullivan
122 Mark Allen
121 John Higgins
119 Anthony McGill, Alan McManus
118 Ronnie O'Sullivan
117 Anthony McGill, Liang Wenbo
115 Michael Holt, Mark Selby
114 Alan McManus, Marco Fu
113 Stuart Bingham, Ding Junhui
112 Ding Junhui
111 Marco Fu, Martin Gould
110 Ding Junhui
109 Shaun Murphy, Michael Holt, Ding Junhui
108 Sam Baird
107 Liang Wenbo, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Alan McManus
106 Judd Trump (2)
105 Shaun Murphy, John Higgins (2)
104 Mark Allen, Robbie Williams
103 Sam Baird, Ali Carter, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen (2)
102 Ali Carter, Mark Williams, Michael White, Marco Fu, Barry Hawkins, Ricky Walden
101 Ronnie O'Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, John Higgins
100 John Higgins, Ding Junhui (3), Sam Baird, Ali Carter, Marco Fu