Ronnie O'Sullivan realised it was time to return to professional snooker when he started playing practice matches with the delivery man from his local Chinese takeaway.
O'Sullivan announced on Tuesday that he had come out of his self-imposed exile from snooker to defend his World Championship in April. 'The Rocket' has only played in one tournament since he won the last of his four world titles in May - the Players Tour Championship in Gloucester, where he lost to the unheralded Simon Bedford.
O'Sullivan did not miss snooker initially, but he soon re-discovered his love for the sport when he challenged Alex, a delivery driver from his local Chinese takeaway to a game. "I started to hit a few balls and get a bit of a buzz," the 37-year-old said.
He went on: "I was playing a few shots, hitting a few 80s and 90s, clearing up, and I thought 'wow, I'm playing okay'. It was only practice and I wasn't playing anyone any good, just my mate who is a Chinese takeaway delivery driver.
"He's not a snooker player. He comes round and plays me in the day, and then delivers Chinese food in the evening. His name is Alex, and he's a good lad. I have moved house recently, and he has brought me meals in his little car. The food is very good."
Scoring comprehensive wins against a man who delivers chicken chow mein for a living does not mean O'Sullivan will take the Crucible by storm in seven weeks' time, of course. The Essex potter admitted he was taking a huge gamble by returning to the game.
He conceded he could "get smashed" in Sheffield, and also revealed that the personal problems which caused him to take a break from the game still trouble him from time to time. There was, therefore, a stern warning for anyone expecting O'Sullivan to turn up and record another five-minute-and-20-second 147.
"I haven't made maximums, I have cleared the tables in one visit a few times, but you can't replicate match practice so we'll see what happens," O'Sullivan said. "If I did come back and run through the field it would be a fairytale, a dream for me - but I don't expect it.
"Looking at others, it is a bit unfair to say Ricky Hatton's comeback backfired, that is such a tough and different sport. Someone like Michael Jordan probably had a few warm-up games before he came back. And the same for people like Paul Scholes at Manchester United, 20 minutes here and there.
"If I win a match in Sheffield I will be happy - and to win it would be up there with winning the Masters with the new cue [described as greatest achievement at time]. But the Crucible is a start, once I get four or five tournaments under my belt I can start winning titles again. I'm not saying I can't win the worlds, but I don't expect to."