On the face of it, Stuart Bingham’s match with Ricky Walden at the Coral UK Championship in York this afternoon looked likely to be close.
There is one place between them in the world rankings, Bingham held a 2-1 head-to-head advantage and they have each won a major ranking title this season.
But Bingham won 6-0 and Walden was left to reflect on a bitterly disappointing day in which nothing he did went right.
There was some bad luck in there – big bounces off cushions still a problem – but also Walden’s form did not hold up and Bingham, who had made a good start with a couple of half centuries, picked him off, efficiently feeding off the scraps he was thrown.
I suspect Bingham was surprised that Walden failed to fire but that’s not his problem. It’s all about getting the result and he’s into the quarter-finals with the minimum of fuss.
The frustration for Walden is doubled by how well he had been playing coming into the match. He won the International Championship in fine style a month ago and finished off his 6-1 defeat of Ken Doherty in the previous round with two successive centuries.
His best effort against Bingham was 42. In a match between two great servants of snooker, it became one to forget for the Chester man.
As Walden licks his wounds, Bingham can prepare for the quarter-finals. He may well face Neil Robertson there in a repeat of their thrilling semi-final from last year, in which Bingham recovered from 8-3 down to force a decider, narrowly won by the Australian.
What has changed for Bingham in recent years is how comfortable he is in the main arena with all the lights, cameras and audience attention. He now looks like a top player and that’s because of the titles he’s won in the last few seasons and the confidence it has engendered.
It’s been a long time coming for this 38 year-old Essex man but he’s clearly determined to make the most of every opportunity to land more silverware – and they don’t come much bigger than the UK Championship.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.