Sunday, 17 February 2013

Who will be the Welsh Open winner?

Stuart Bingham and Stephen Maguire are ready to lock horns in this year's Welsh Open final.

Two very determined players have their eyes on the prize in what would be a trophy they'd feel is all about making up for lost time.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Essex's Bingham is enjoying the golden years of his career after many as a professional scrapping away from the TV tables and just trying to reach somewhere near his great potential.

Scotland's Maguire has always been a class act but has found major trophies difficult to come by in recent years.

In a period of the game where consistency is hard to come by, remarkably, this is Bingham's fifth final of another excellent season. Victory here would mark his fourth trophy of the campaign after winning two APTC titles and the prestigious Premier League crown.

A major ranking event has so far eluded him, though, after losing out to Ricky Walden in the Wuxi Classic final despite making a 147. He won the Australian Open in 2011 and needs this title to join a list of players who have won multiple ranking events.

He beat form man Ding Junhui 6-5 yesterday in a match where pressure got to both players in patches. The Chinese star has been playing well all week but this was the first time he came under real threat, and couldn't find a way over the line.

Bingham, on the other hand, has played well in bits but most importantly delivered the goods during the closing stages of his matches. And let's be honest, that's when it really matters.

Over the course of a ranking event, things will not all be plain-sailing but Bingham has showed he can respond with some gutsy play. His clearance to pinch the decider against Neil Robertson was one of the breaks of the season.

Lifting the trophy would mean everything to Bingham. He has fought hard to work his way up the snooker ladder and would finish the night number seven in the world with a win.

He struts his stuff out on the TV tables like he really believes he belongs with the big boys now and enjoys playing the game as much as he ever does.

His opponent, Maguire, will be looking to dominate the table as always.

He's one of the game's real powerhouses who refuses to give an inch. He's been punching the ball with authority this week and bullying the balls around like only he can in spells.

Picture by Monique Limbos
A 6-4 win against Judd Trump last night will give him even greater confidence but he profited from a style of match that suits him best. Maguire enjoys his snooker more when the balls are open and in situations where you can just go for your shots.

It is sometimes when the table goes scrappy that he can lose his thread.

There was a stage in Maguire's career when he was being tipped to win every title going. His capture of the UK Championship back in 2004 was thought to be the start of a spell of dominance, but it hasn't quite gone that way.

In fact, you have to go back as far as the China Open in 2008 to find his last major ranking event success. This is nearly five years ago and difficult to even comprehend of a player so good.

As he admits, the longer the wait goes on, the tougher it gets. He'll want to get back into the winner's enclosure but will have to tackle the mental effects of having to wait so long.

He's being showing signs of competing for major titles again for a while now. I'm told he's recaptured some of his dedication.

This could be another great final. These two fantastic break-builders will be hoping to score their way to the title and can be relied upon for maximum effort right under the winning line.

It's a race to nine frames and it begins on BBC2 Wales and Eurosport at live at 1pm.

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