Ronnie O'Sullivan is close to accepting an invitation to make a shock comeback at next year's World Championship.
O'Sullivan is set to defend his crown at the Crucible after holding a series of secret meetings with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.
O'Sullivan was offered the chance by Hearn after the four-time world champion had announced at the start of the season he was taking a sabbatical from the game to spend more time with his wife, children and father, Ronnie Snr, who has recently been released from jail.
"I have said to Ronnie that the only tournament for us, if he wanted to change his mind, is the World Championship," Hearn said. "We know exactly how much interest that would generate, clearly more so as he is the defending champion and has had most of the season out.
Ali Carter, who lost to O'Sullivan in the 2008 and 2012 finals, said: "I think he will be back for the World Championship, no matter what anyone says now. There is no way Ronnie will miss that."
As O'Sullivan is on the verge of returning, another former world champion has said he's considering quitting.
Mark Williams (37) revealed his frustration after a first-round defeat to Mark King at the UK Championship. "Perhaps I should follow Stephen Hendry and retire. It's probably the best," said Williams. "I'm disappointed with the way I play. Because every time I play, I play that bad.
Meanwhile, Carter saw off Mark Joyce in a convincing performance to become the first man through to the quarter-finals.
The Essex man was a 6-2 winner against Walsall man Joyce, the world No 50 who caused a Sunday sensation by coming from 5-2 behind to sink title favourite Judd Trump.
Joining Carter in the last eight was Matthew Stevens, the Welshman a 6-4 winner in a gruelling match against Marco Fu.
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