Saturday, 23 July 2011

Ballrun Bingham into Bendigo final

Record-breaking Stuart Bingham proved he's in the form of his life by reaching his first ever ranking event final at the Australian Open today.

The world number 17, who already admits it's the best moment of his career, ran out a comfortable 6-2 winner against former world champion Shaun Murphy and now faces world number one Mark Williams to finally lift a trophy after years of graft in the game.

The great thing about snooker is that  players always know exactly how well they're playing. After beating Mark Allen in the quarter-finals, Bingham said it would take someone playing "very well" to knock him out - and Murphy wasn't up to the task.

Adding those two wins to a second round victory against Ding Junhui, Bingham has put his Crucible disappointment in April way behind him and is playing the best snooker I've ever seen from him.

Before now, Bingham's former greatest moment will surely have been beating seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry at the World Championship 2000. A lot has changed since then, namely Bingham improving his all-round game and becoming a more consistent qualifier.
It's taken him until 35-years-old to make a ranking final, but some people never get there. At last, everything he's ever played for is coming off. Victory tomorrow would be a great reward for his career where he has played in all events, big or small, in order to realise his dream and for his love of snooker.

There will be plenty of neutrals willing on Bingham but he will still go into tomorrow's final against Williams as the underdog. Saying that, you'd be silly to write him off. Being an underdog is a familiar role to him and it's in this position where he's enjoyed his greatest successes. Coupling this with his excellent form, he has the minerals to pull it off.

That doesn't mean it will be easy and he'll have to start strongly. Williams is one of the game's great champions who knows how to win big matches. He proved he's not in bad form himself either with an easy 6-2 semi-final win against Ken Doherty this afternoon.

While all of Williams' nearest rivals in the rankings have fallen to shock defeats this week, the Welshman has kept doing enough to progress and in turn proved why he sits at the top of the pecking order.

Like Williams, Bingham is known for attacking prowess. He's got the scoring game to win but, in the end, it might come down to how well he fares in the safety department. He's improved in this area ten-fold in recent years, but will have to be at his very best this tomorrow.

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