STUART BINGHAM will have played much better in matches and lost so he can take great satisfaction from his 10-3 Shanghai Masters final victory over Mark Allen, even if the standard was below that of which both players are capable.
The final was disappointing. Both players struggled, although Bingham got off to a good start. Perhaps the key moment was at the end of the ninth frame, the last of the opening session, when Allen missed the green with a chance to trail only 5-4 having been 4-0 down.
Allen seemed flat all day and never really settled, so the expected close tussle never materialised.
But there will be real delight within the game for Bingham, a salt-of-the-earth snooker diehard whose career took a while to really hit the heights but who is now enjoying the fruits of his many labours.
Bingham is a person of genuine humility who always gives the impression he feels fortunate to be earning a living – a good one – doing the thing he loves. Side issues such as status, image and money are always secondary to potting balls.
He has always been like this. I think one of his great strengths is that he doesn’t really rate tournaments or matches as being more important than one another. To him, it’s a frame, it’s a match. He just wants to play and give of his best.
When snooker was struggling he filled his time competing in – and invariably winning – pro-ams and he has brought this mind-set into the new era of professional snooker under Barry Hearn, in which playing opportunities have significantly increased.
Not everyone wants to play in everything, neither should they have to, but Bingham is the sort who will usually pitch up because he finds it so enjoyable.
A former world amateur champion, he first rose to prominence as a professional when he beat Stephen Hendry, the then defending champion, on the opening day of the 2000 World Championship.
He became established as a solid enough player – twice winning the Masters qualifying event – but had trouble making a real breakthrough until the number of tournaments increased to a level in which he was able to find real form through playing so regularly.
In 2011, Bingham beat Mark Williams 9-8 to win the Australian Goldfields Open, his first ranking title. In 2012, he won the Premier League. He has three Asian Tour titles to his name and was runner-up in the 2013 Welsh Open and Champion of Champions.
Early on in Shanghai, he sat out total clearances of 141 and 136 from his first round opponent, Li Hang. Bingham himself responded with some big breaks, made two centuries against Dominic Dale and repelled the challenge of Alan McManus. He then finished off well in a long semi-final against Ding Junhui.
The Allen final turned a little into a damp squib but this is not to decry the achievement. Any ranking tournament is difficult to win. Stuart ‘Ballrun’ Bingham has once again proved that he deserves to be regarded as one of the best players in the world.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.