Dave Harold has the ideal opportunity to remind snooker fans he is still around when he plays Stephen Hendry in the second round of the Maplin UK Championship on Saturday.
The Stoke player will be back in the big time on his 40th birthday, taking on the world number one in front of the television cameras at York’s Barbican Centre.
After a lengthy spell out of the limelight, in which he has been battling with all the other hopefuls to reach the final stages of tournaments, Harold is looking forward to his leading role.
“It’s been a long time coming – I’ve only been to two venues in the last 14 months, for last season’s Grand Prix and World Championship, so I must admit it feels nice,” he said after his 9-7 first-round win against Robert Milkins.
“People keep asking me if I’ve retired and don’t realise about the qualifiers at Prestatyn – sometimes it’s harder there than at any venue. It’s a mammoth task to get out of there.
“Playing Stephen Hendry on Saturday, my 40th birthday, will be a bit special. That’s what you play the game for – to play the top players at the top venues and I can’t wait for it.
“I’ve been putting the hours in and I feel comfortable with my game. I played really well against Rob Milkins and finished with a 102 break, which is always nice.”
While Harold had four days to prepare for his second match, Joe Perry was back in action today, less than 24 hours after beating Michael Judge.
But at least the world number 18 gave himself extra time to recover by polishing off the Irishman for the loss of only one frame, requiring just 26 minutes of the second session to do so.
Having some spare time to himself is a precious commodity at present for Perry, who became a father to daughter Lexie in October, but he has no complaints about the sleepless nights.
“Life couldn’t be better away from the table,” said Perry, whose next opponent will be world number 12 Barry Hawkins.
“My wife Joanne and I are really happy and we’ve now got the baby of course. I hear she’s been misbehaving while I’ve been away but at least I’m getting plenty of sleep!”
Perry lives in Chatteris, near Cambridge, with the university city also being the base of Australia’s Neil Robertson, winner of the last ranking event, the Royal London Watches Grand Prix.
The duo play at the same club, but have not been not together so much recently because of the different hours they keep, according to Perry.
“You would be surprised how little Neil and I actually practise together,” said Perry.
“I’m an early riser and he’s a very late riser. I like to get away from Cambridge by 4pm to miss the traffic and he’s invariably not out of bed until 2pm!
“But Cambridge is a good location and it’s easy for a lot of players to get to, so I do get some good match practice.”