John Parrott had every reason to be feeling “quietly confident” heading into the 1991 World Snooker Championship.
Parrott, then ranked number three in the world, had reached the Irish Masters final a couple of weeks earlier – losing 9-5 to six-time Crucible king Steve Davis – while he had also enjoyed a run to the UK Championship quarter-finals before Christmas.
Meanwhile, not many players could boast a better record in Sheffield than the popular Liverpudlian in recent years.
Parrott had reached his first final in 1989, although it was an occasion to forget as he was on the wrong end of an 18-3 drubbing at the hands of the irrepressible Davis.
Nevertheless, he would embark on a run to the last four the following year, before going down 16-10 against eventual champion Stephen Hendry.
But the then 26-year-old was ready to go again 12 months on, and it’s fair to say he was in pretty good shape.
“Strangely, that was probably the best I’d ever felt going into a tournament,” Parrott told Live Snooker.
“I had enough battle scars and experience and was coming in at the right time.
“Practise-wise, I was playing as good as I could play; I had eight frames on the Saturday night before I left to go to Sheffield and made seven centuries and a 90.
“I’d had good form at other times going into the tournament, but nothing quite as good as that.
“It was difficult to keep a lid on it really, but I was quietly confident.”
First up for Parrott was a showdown with Nigel Gilbert.
The former Grand Prix quarter-finalist had come through three qualifying rounds, sealing his Crucible return with a 10-8 victory over former British Open champion Bob Chaperon.
But although he recovered from 8-4 down to only trail Parrott 8-6, the third seed’s superiority eventually saw him over the line 10-6.
“Nigel was a very good player who had come through the qualifiers quite comfortably,” he recalls.
“I remember he played with a glove on because his hand used to sweat.
“The first round is always tricky; you just do not want to go out and not feel involved in the tournament.
“He was a very stubborn opponent, he played really hard snooker and you had to beat him; he wasn’t there to lie down.
“It was a massive sigh of relief to get through that first round.”
Parrott’s reward was a second-round clash with former world number two Tony Knowles, who had just beaten 14th seed John Virgo 10-8.
But how would he fare? Stay tuned for part two…