KEN Doherty has a point to prove at the World Champion-ship which starts tomorrow. until May 5.
The Ranelagh Rascal, a champion in 1997, has to win his first round match at the Crucible, otherwise he will drop out of the top 16 rankings for the first time in his career.
Irish potter Doherty has been a member of the elite 16 for an impressive 15 consecutive seasons, a record only bettered by a handful of fellow leading professionals.
All-conquering Scot Stephen Hendry, a seven-times Crucible winner, and six-times world champ Steve Davis have better records than Doherty.
Players such as Hendry and Davis, arguably two of the best-ever players, have openly admitted that reaching quarter-finals of major tournaments was "easy" in years gone by.
But with the standards having improved so dramatically - not even naturally-talented Ronnie O'Sullivan dominates the modern game these days - Doherty is still hungry to perform at the highest level.
The world No 4 would love to emulate Hendry and Davis' achievements by staying in the top 16 for longer - and the 38-year-old insists he is not a spent force in the sport.
"I've got to win my first round match in Sheffield. If I don't I'm out of the top 16, it's as simple as that," revealed Doherty.
"To be honest it's not a situation I thought I'd find myself in, but the standard is so high these days, you're under pressure to play well in every tournament.
"But I'm not going to the Crucible full of confidence, it's the first time I don't really know what to expect there.
"Going there last year I was well-prepared, but I got beat in the first round which was very disappointing."
Doherty fought back from 7-3 down to level at 7-7 against Belfast's Mark Allen in last season's first round.
But the likeable Dubliner slipped to an agonising defeat, his tournament over at the first hurdle.
"There could be an awful lot of shocks in Sheffield this year, there's a lot of dangerous players about.
"My draw against Chinese qualifier Liang Wenbo could have been a lot tougher than it is, but it's been a very difficult season for me."
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