As Stuart Bingham cleared the remaining colours in the final frame of last night’s Welsh Open final, the relief on his face was clear to see. Each pot was celebrated with a fist-pump, as the 40 year-old pipped Judd Trump to win the Ray Reardon Trophy for the first time.
This is Bingham’s first title since that remarkable World Championship triumph in 2015, and it’s clear that the pressure of being a former world champion has dogged him since that miraculous success. Since then, Bingham has remained fairly consistent, keeping a tight grip on a high ranking, but has often crumbled at the business end of tournaments. This season alone he has reached the semi-finals of a ranking tournament on four occasions, losing every time.
To put an end to that miserable run shows Bingham still has the motivation to win more titles. He has admitted that nothing will ever top his Crucible triumph, and perhaps he has rode the wave of that win for too long. Bingham is not a young player, but undoubtedly still has the ability to win many more titles. This Welsh Open win could be the kickstart Bingham needs, with some big competitions still to come this season, not least April’s World Championship.
Indeed, Bingham showed the same kind of resolve and resilience he showed to win the world title in last night’s Welsh Open final. In a tournament full of upsets and surprises, it was ironic that the two finalists were ranked two and four respectively. However, the final was a match low in quality, but high in drama as Bingham and Judd Trump struggled to find any kind of rhythm. Not a single century was made in the match, a surprising stat when Judd Trump is around. Instead, it came down to who could capitalise best on their opponents mistakes.
It was the sixteenth frame that was the key to Bingham’s triumph. Bingham trailed 7-8 with Trump just one frame away from victory. Nerves were evident in both players. Neither managed to make any significant breaks, but it was Bingham who held his nerve in the end to force a deciding frame. Winning such a tight frame seemed to relax Bingham, as he came out in the decider and played his best snooker since he had raced into a 4-0 lead in the afternoon session. It was a final that could have gone either way, but even though the crowd was largely comprised of Judd supporters, they could appreciate how much this victory meant to Stuart Bingham.
Bingham will be able to play with more freedom now that he has followed up his Crucible success with another title. Although nothing will top that remarkable triumph almost two years ago, Bingham will want to prove that he is not just a one-hit wonder, but instead cement his place among the greats of his generation. That can only happen with the addition of more titles, and last night’s Welsh Open was a fine start.