Ken Doherty turns 40 today.
He remains the only player to win the world title at junior, amateur and professional level and through two decades at the top has cemented his place in snooker’s pantheon of legends.
Like many of his age, Ken got into snooker through watching Pot Black on the BBC but his ambition to be a pro was formed when he sat, transfixed, as Alex Higgins won his second world title in 1982.
A successful junior career in Ireland was followed by a move to Ilford where he lived and practised for several years and played on the thriving pro-am circuit.
After winning the world under 21 and amateur crowns, Doherty turned professional in 1990.
In his first season he qualified for the Crucible where he ran Steve Davis very close before going down 10-8.
His first ranking final came at the 1992 Grand Prix and his first title at the 1993 Welsh Open.
He has won six ranking tournaments in total having reached 17 finals, 35 semi-finals and 61 quarter-finals.
Of course, his greatest success came at the 1997 World Championship when he ended Stephen Hendry’s run of five successive Crucible triumphs with an 18-12 defeat.
A year later he reached the final again but was beaten 18-12 by John Higgins.
In many ways, his best performance came at the 2003 World Championship where he proved to be the tournament’s star if not its winner.
Doherty survived a series of last gasp victories, none more dramatic than his 17-16 semi-final defeat of Paul Hunter from 15-9 down.
He trailed Mark Williams 11-4 in the final, levelled at 11-11 but eventually lost their gripping encounter 18-16.
Afterwards he was just as he has always been in victory or defeat: a model of graciousness.
In a career of considerable success, he has had his disappointments, not least missing the final black of what would have been a 147 in the 2000 Masters final.
Perhaps Ken could have won more, but he played during an era in which Hendry, Higgins, Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, to name but four, were all at their best.
He has slipped to 44th in the world rankings this season but his run to the quarter-finals in Shanghai suggests he is far from finished.
He’s often referred to as a great tactician – which he is – but he’s also one of snooker’s best break-builders, having made over 260 career centuries, placing him sixth on the all time list.
Ken is also one of the game’s finest ambassadors. I’ve seen him bitterly disappointed by defeat but he has always taken his media responsibilities seriously and done the best for the game.
The only slip was when he was asked to leave the Air Malta flight the morning after he beat John Higgins to win the Malta Cup.
However, this was a case of overzealous officialdom as Ken was not drunk but merely sticking up for John.
Not that anybody cared anyway. Ken is one of those players almost everyone warms to because they empathise with his genuine, friendly persona.
Away from the table, he is married to a psychiatrist and the couple have a young son. He supports Manchester United and has a wide range of interests, including the painter Caravaggio. Earlier this year, he joined the BBC commentary team.
Ken could stop playing tomorrow and would be regarded as an all time great but there are still goals to be accomplished.
He is one of the organisers of the new Six Reds World Championship and, at 40, is eligible for the World Seniors Championship, should one be organised.
If he won them both he will have been world champion in five separate events, a record that may never be bettered.