Former champion Stuart Bingham spoke of his excitement ahead of this year’s World Snooker Championship, but warned the nature of the sport’s blue riband event will play a big part in determining who is victorious at the Crucible.
Bingham, 42, currently sits 12th in the world rankings and is an outside bet to claim snooker’s ultimate prize for the second time in his career after a promising season which has seen him claim two ranking titles so far.
The 2015 world champion came out on top at both the English Open and Gibraltar Open earlier this campaign, while he made a fifth 147 of his career at the China Open at the start of this month to become just the sixth player to make five or more official maximum breaks.Embed from Getty Images
Former world champion Stuart Bingham has enjoyed a great season so far, with two ranking tournament wins.
Ahead of the World Championship, he said: “Here [the Crucible] is a totally different story – everything is a bit more hyped up. Even just out there now with no-one there, you can feel the buzz. I can’t wait.
“You can put all the preparation in, but it’s about how you cope with those first couple of frames – you need to settle in pretty quick. I’ve come here before knocking in maximums in practice and then gone on to miss every shot; then I’ve come here struggling and won it [the Championship].”
Bingham has been dealt a mouth-watering match-up with 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in the first round on Tuesday; a tie which he believes will provide the ideal test as he goes for glory.Embed from Getty Images
Bingham’s first round match will see him face fellow former world champion, Graeme Dott.
He said: “I was talking to my wife about it and she said, ‘that’s a tough draw’, but I prefer it because I know I’ve got to play well.
“I expect we’re both going into it feeling good about our games but it’s about whatever happens on the day. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
While Bingham recognises the magnitude of the World Championship, the enormity of the event is certainly not lost on his peers, either. Defending champion Mark Williams – who takes on Martin Gould on Saturday – admitted that he has been looking forward to returning to Sheffield since he claimed his third world title last year.
He said: “My family and kids are going to be there when I come out and I’m just going to enjoy it. If I lose the first match, it won’t make any difference to me at all.
“I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened over the last 12 months – it’s been the best of time of my life and hopefully I can do it again this year.”Embed from Getty Images
Mark Williams claimed his third world title at last year’s event, beating John Higgins 18-16 in the final.
Five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is the favourite to claim the record £500,000 prize on offer to this year’s winner, but agreed the Crucible poses certain challenges that aren’t present at other venues.
He said: “Anyone that’s won it will tell you that you have to dig deep. You’re not going to have it all your own way.
“It’s a different tournament. There are longer sessions – if you’re not playing well it can feel even longer. It [the tournament] goes on longer than the Olympics so in a way it’s a case of seeing how long you can sweat it out for.”Embed from Getty Images
Ronnie O’Sullivan is the hot favourite to be victorious at the Crucible and claim his sixth world title.
O’Sullivan recently returned to the top of the world rankings and will face James Cahill in his opening match on Monday – the first amateur to ever qualify for the competition. Four-time world champion John Higgins believes that the seven debutants at this year’s tournament – the most for 20 years – will benefit hugely from appearing on the highest stage.
Ahead of his tie with Mark Davis on Sunday, he said: “It’s a massive, massive occasion for them to step out at the Crucible; these games will be some of the biggest of their lives. Walking out here for the first time – I don’t think anything prepares you for that.”
On the topic of young players, Bingham said that the four Chinese debutants at this year’s World Championship represent where snooker’s emerging talent is now largely coming from, but he still believes that there are simple ways British prospects – such as Crucible first-timers Cahill and Scott Donaldson – can continue to improve their game.Embed from Getty Images
Zhao Xintong is among the four Chinese debutants in Sheffield this year.
He said: “I haven’t seen that much talent in Britain coming through; most of it is coming from China. We go out there five times a year and there are 11, 12-year-olds knocking balls in for fun.
“A lot of the kids coming through haven’t got the full package yet, whereas the likes of Higgins, O’Sullivan and Williams are all great break-builders, all great potters, and they all have a good tactical side.
“I still watch the likes of O’Sullivan and Higgins on TV to try and learn – it might only improve you by 1% or 2%, but if you bring that into your game then it’ll make you stronger.”
Bingham will certainly be hoping that he is performing to his maximum as he bids to cap off a brilliant season with snooker’s top prize.
Featured photograph/Peter White