Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Question time... with Gould and Bingham

Martin Gould and Stuart Bingham are two of the top 16's newest members.

After breaking into the elite in the last year, they both skipped qualifying and are looking forward to playing at the Crucible as seeds.

OnCue asked them some quickfire questions as the World Championship draws ever closer....

Picture by Monique Limbos
How are you feeling for form going into the tournament?

Stuart: Not too good but not too bad either. I've won a few games since the Masters and I feel like I'm playing ok. I've run into Judd a few times this season and he just seems to be riding a wave at the moment. It's tough getting used to being in the top 16 because you're coming into games cold whereas qualifiers have a win already. It feels different. Maybe my priorities have been a little bit different this season because I''ve got a new baby but I've managed to get some practice under my belt and feel ready to go.

Martin: I've been playing a bit mediocre in the last few tournaments. There's been a lot of travelling this season and I've felt quite tired from it all. I've got into the top 16 but I've kicked back a bit and have struggled. I've made a few small adjustments to my cue action recently though and I feel like I'm hitting the ball a lot sweeter again. Confidence has been an issue for me but I had a chat with John Higgins and asked him how he copes when he's out of form. He told me that I've got to grin and bear it. I've played through it and felt like I played a lot better in China. I just want to go to the Crucible and not let myself down.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Do you ever do anything differently going into the Crucible as opposed to other tournaments?

Stuart: Not really in terms of the snooker but I've been trying a diet and have got a personal trainer to try to lose a few pounds and get fitter.

Martin: I've just done a mix different types of practice for the tournament. There's been a few days on my own, a couple of sessions with other pros and younger players in my area plus some exhibitions. I do pretty much the same for each tournament. If you have a good mix of practice, it helps you to hit the ground running  when you arrive at the venue to play. 

Are you looking forward to a new experience of being a seeded player at the Crucible?

Stuart: Yeah it will be nice and a little bit different but when you get out there it doesn't matter, it's just another match. It's tough whatever.

Martin: I think it will feel a bit different. I'm used to going there as the qualifier and the underdog but now I'm expected to produce. But I'm pleased to be in the top 16. I know the pressures and I'm working hard and stay at the top.

Are you happy with your draw?

Stuart: It's a great draw to play the seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry. I've got so much respect for him and have been looking forward to the tournament even more since the draw. It's probably the toughest draw out of all of the qualifiers. He'll score well and provide a tough battle. I have to be at my best to have any chance.

Martin: David Gilbert isn't the easiest draw. He's won four matches to qualify. He's a quality player and a very heavy scorer. We've had some good battles in the past and I'm sure we've got another decent match in store. 

How do you look back on your performance at the Crucible last year?

Stuart: I lost to Ding Junhui 13-12 in the second round. I was happy with how I played. I was in really good form at the end of the season and into the start of this season but I just got pipped at the end of that match. It would be nice to get further than that this time.

Martin: I lost to Judd Trump in round two but I felt like I had him on the ropes. I missed an easy black which would have got me to 7-6 behind. Instead, it was 8-5 and he stepped it up. I didn't see much after that.

What's your best performance at the Crucible?

Stuart: I'm remembered at the Crucible for beating defending champion Hendry in the first round in 2000. I look back at that match and there were a few frames where I didn't miss a ball but there were some shots I look back at and think I shouldn't have been taking them on. They were mad shots but I was getting away with it.

Martin: The best I played was in the first two sessions of my second round match against Neil Robertson in 2012 where I led 11-5 before losing 13-12. That's the best I've ever played. I made loads of big breaks and I showed how ridiculous my potting can be. There were parts of that match where it was like Alex Higgins style pots from his famous semi-final win against Jimmy White in the 1980s.

Why is the Crucible special to you?

Stuart: It is the best ever. You get goosebumps walking out to play, you get nervous and even sleepless nights. Driving up there is great, seeing the signs for Sheffield and getting the butterflies. I can't wait. I love the feeling. There was an old pro called Dave McLellan who said he wasn't in a rush to get back there but I don't know how you can say that. I go there, let loose and enjoy every second of it. If you can't enjoy playing there, you're in the wrong sport. 

Martin: The atmosphere is absolutely electric. There's a real buzz about the place. The nerves you get on the way up to Sheffield let you know it's the World Championship.

Have you set yourself any aims for this year?

Stuart: I go into every tournament trying to win it but considering it took me 16 years to win my first, I'm not holding my breath. Mu next big aim in my snooker career is to get to the semi-finals at the Crucible. I'd love to play at the venue when there's just one tournament, with all eyes on you. That must feel pretty special.

Martin: I've got no specific targets. I just want to go there and produce some decent snooker. I want to be proud of how I play for myself. If someone plays excellently and beats me, I can hold my hands up to that. I just want to play how I know I can.  I'm looking forward to it. I'm up for it.

How do you relax off the table in Sheffield?

Stuart: I always get up a night before my game and, because I've got a few days between then and my potential round two game, I'll be coming home to change some more nappies. When I'm up there for longer though I try to chill out, do a bit of training and take my golf clubs to go to the driving range or play a proper round on a course up there. It's important to totally relax and not beat yourself up from any shots and just regroup for your next session or match.

Martin: I really like it in Sheffield. There are lots of places to go to eat and you don't need a car to get around. I'm all booked in at my usual hotel just down the road from the venue. My girlfriend lives in Sheffield, so I'll spend some time with her off of the table and do some shopping too. 

Do you enjoy the atmosphere with all the fans around?

Stuart: My early Crucible memories are being one of the fans getting all of the autographs off of the players. So, I'll be walking into the foyer and doing photographs and autographs. That's what I think Sheffield is all about.

Martin: I'm always happy to have a chat with the fans and to take some time to sign autographs. You've got to expect it when you play professional sport and are in the top 16.

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