REGARDLESS OF WHAT happened on the table at the Paul Hunter Classic, Ali Carter was already a winner. He leaves Germany as a champion too.
His epic 4-3 defeat of Shaun Murphy in the final was symbolic of the wider battle he has fought. A year ago, he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer, a physically and emotionally draining process a world away from the cut and thrust of the snooker circuit. He knew better than most what the late Paul Hunter had gone through.
But as with all the adversities in his life, including Crohn’s disease and testicular cancer, Carter looked his latest setback squarely in the eye. He came through the treatment and returned to playing.
That he should win the tournament staged in Hunter’s name seems apt and will be an emotional moment for Ali and his family and friends.
It’s easy, in the face of real life and its struggles, to dismiss snooker as just a game, just knocking balls around a table, but it is also the livelihood of Carter and many others. Anything you devote your life to is, by definition, important.
That’s the magical thing about sport. It manages to be simultaneously a frivolous distraction and a stage for glory, redemption and inspiration. It brings people together and Carter’s victory tonight was cheered way beyond the venue in Furth.
At first, he was pleased just to be playing again but like any other great competitor he seeks success. He now has another trophy to add to his collection.
Having seen his 3-1 lead cancelled out it looked like his chance might have gone but Murphy missed a pink to a middle pocket in the decider and Carter stepped in to complete a match winning 95 break.
It’s been a long road to get here but Ali Carter’s journey continues. He has shown admirable character to get this far. He deserves to savour every moment of this victory.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.