STUART BINGHAM’s intro music was apt. In the opening lines of Lose Yourself, Eminem asks: “If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”
That was the question Bingham found himself facing through the two biggest days of his snooker life
He knew he may never be back here again. At 38 he was already defying most logic. The last first time world champion to be this old was Walter Donaldson in the 1940s.
Bingham was world amateur champion two decades ago and soon became a promising professional good enough to beat top players and twice win the Masters qualifying tournament but inconsistent and apparently lacking the killer thrust in matches needed to make progress.
He got himself in the top 32 but his fortunes mirrored those of snooker itself: could do better.
Steve Feeney from Sight Right brought a new dimension to his game while Barry Hearn brought a new life to THE game. Bingham had always loved simply playing snooker, seeking out pro-ams and all manner of minor events to keep himself competitive in the long wait between ranking events.
Suddenly, there were professional tournaments every other week and he embraced the new era with a boyish enthusiasm. He became a sharper player and finally won a ranking title in Bendigo in 2011, coming from 8-5 down to beat Mark Williams 9-8 in the final of the Australian Goldfields Open.
It set in motion four golden years which have culminated in him reaching the world final. On one night at the Premier League he thrashed both Mark Selby and Neil Robertson 6-0. He beat Judd Trump in the final.
Bingham was runner-up in the Welsh Open, Wuxi Classic and Champion of Champions. He won four Asian Tour titles, the Championship League and this season’s Shanghai Masters.
Betfred invited him to their media launch along with Selby ahead of the World Championship but despite his recent success few gave him any chance of going all the way. He didn’t care. As he said, “I’ve been the underdog my whole life.”
He did little in the first round against Robbie Williams to suggest such a run was going to happen but played well against Graeme Dott, managed to shut out the unique pressure of playing Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible and was superb against Judd Trump.
From 8-4 down in the final, he took the game to Murphy, excelling on snooker’s greatest stage. This was indeed his moment. Let the doubters doubt from afar, they were watching, he was out there doing it, and doing it in style.
His nickname is Ballrun but there is nothing lucky about Bingham’s rise to the top. It’s come about through hard work, through commitment, through a relentlessly upbeat, positive outlook.
It was reminiscent of Joe Johnson’s triumph in 1986. Johnson not only enjoyed every minute of his time in Sheffield but also played the best snooker of his life. He managed, somehow, to relax in the heat of the Crucible and just play the balls, shutting out the pressure of the occasion.
It hasn’t hurt Bingham that he hasn’t been fancied to win his last three matches. The burden of expectation was on O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy, players the pundits said ‘should’ beat him. But there is no should in sport, only what is.
It’s a victory for a genuinely good guy. Bingham is exactly as he seems: a lovely bloke, committed to his family and to snooker. This won’t go to his head. He’s grounded enough to embrace the greatest moment of his professional life with humility.
But he deserves to enjoy it. Blood, sweat and tears go into a career this long. There have been down times, there have been disappointments but Stuart Bingham is now on top of the snooker world.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.