A decade on from his Crucible triumph, Graeme Dott exited the World Snooker Championship at the first hurdle and fears he will never lift the trophy again.
The 38-year-old suffered a 10-4 defeat to another fellow champion Mark Williams, the damage done when he trailed 7-2 after the first session.
Dott, ranked 24th in the world, had to win three best-of-19 frames qualifying matches at Ponds Forge to be here.
And the former world No2 believes that gruelling schedule will stop him ever being crowned World Snooker Champion again.
“The qualifiers is an advantage, depending on what you want to get out of it,” said the Larkhall man.
“It’s good match practice for the first and second rounds. The qualifiers is fantastic for Anthony McGill, for example, but eventually that advantage turns to a disadvantage if you want to get to a final, because all these best-of-19 matches will catch up with you.
“I don’t think a qualifier can win it. I’ve been to three finals and been exhausted every time I played and I didn’t have to play three best-of-19 matches before it. So I think it’s too hard for people.
“If I want to win it, I need to get back into the 16.
“But I’m under no illusions, I’m getting older, the game’s getting harder to do well in every year.
“The chances of me winning it go down every year.”
Dott won the first frame on Sunday night, but trailed 7-2 by the time he returned to his hotel.
Williams, keen to wrap things up quickly, extended that lead to 9-2 yesterday afternoon, making his first century of the match, 102, in frame 11. But, having been to three finals, Dott knows how to grind down an opponent at the Crucible and breaks of 54 and 88 saw him win two frames on the spin.
However, Dott’s hopes of an astonishing comeback were ended in frame 14.
“It didn’t feel anything like the scoreline suggests,” he added.
“I was 7-2 down in the first session, yet I felt like I was involved in the match. I’ve played a lot worse than that and come out of a session 5-4.
“The game was done. The only chance I had was to win 3-1 in the morning minimum, but the first frame went the exact way every frame went on Sunday.
“I had three massive bits of bad luck.
“But Mark didn’t need the luck because he was playing that well any way.”
Though Dott’s race is run, Wishaw’s John Higgins showed glimpses of the form that has won him four world titles with three century breaks in the first session of his opening-round match with Ryan Day.
With the victory target 10 frames, Higgins was ruthless as he opened up a 7-2 lead to leave him on the brink of reaching round two where he will meet Ricky Walden or Robbie Williams.
Higgins and Day resume battle and play to a finish from 2.30pm today.
l Watch the World Championship live on Eurosport, with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan.