Snooker exclusive interview with Stuart Bingham ahead of the Betway UK Championship

Stuart Bingham spoke to Nick Metcalfe

Stuart Bingham admits it would "mean the world" if he could win the UK Championship and complete the set of triple crown titles.

Bingham landed the biggest victory of his career at the World Championship in 2015, and then claimed the Masters crown in January.

Now comes his first chance to make it a magical treble, and Bingham told Sporting Life: "As the years went past, I never thought I'd be in the position to have a chance of going for this.

"If I could get my hands on that trophy, it would mean the world. Growing up and seeing players win the triple crown, to have a chance of it is unbelievable.

"You see some of the players having the triple crown on their waistcoats. You just see them as the top players in the game, the best that have ever picked up a cue. It would be nice to add that to my waistcoat.

"To have a chance of doing that, you'll go down in the history books, it would be unbelievable."

The UK Championship, which was first played in 1977, is one of the most historic and prestigious tournaments in the sport.

Bingham clearly believes however that it has now slipped to third in the rankings, behind the World Championship and Masters.

"When the UK was best of 17 frames to start with, I think it meant a bit more," he said. "Now it's best of 11 it has taken a bit of the shine off, especially with China and a couple of the big tournaments there, and the new event in Saudi Arabia as well.

"The traditional triple crown obviously includes the UK. And it would still mean the world to win it. To lift those three trophies in anyone's career is special. It's just, for the players, I think it was a better tournament when it was best of 17."

This year's tournament will be played behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, rather than its usual home of York's Barbican Centre, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bingham is going to miss being in north Yorkshire, but remains grateful to be able to ply his trade at all amid the pandemic.

"It's a shame for the city and for the tour not to be going to York," Bingham said. "It's such a great time of year there, with all the Christmas markets, and the place is so traditional for the UK now.

"But we know we're playing near enough every tournament at Milton Keynes under strict conditions. I think we're thankful we're actually playing. World Snooker Tour and Matchroom Sport have been unbelievable, with the set-ups they've had to sort out.

"There isn't that adrenaline pumping when the crowd is there and you need to clear up. At the Crucible this year I made a clearance against Mark Williams and it felt like a practice session. Normally you're clearing up to nick a frame and you're shaking, there's that tension in the crowd, that's what we're missing.

"But it does sort of seem like second nature now to play with no crowds. It is a bit strange, but it wasn't so long ago I was playing in front of nobody qualifying for events. It is what is is, we've just got to get on with it. We're lucky to play."

Stuart Bingham - 2020 Masters champion

It's fair to say Bingham hasn't set the world alight in the first two months of this season. The furthest he's reached in any event was the last 16 of the European Masters, where he admits a trademark Mark Selby comeback really set him back.

"I've had a bit of a slow start to the season," he said. "I felt I played pretty well in the European Masters. Being 4-1 up against Selby and losing put a dent in the confidence, especially when he goes on to win it, you sort of can't help thinking that's a title that got away.

"It was a shot here and there that lost me the match against Ben Woollaston at the English Open. It started to snowball, when you're losing matches the confidence starts going, I start tinkering around with a couple of tips here and there.

"I didn't go into the Champion of Champions with a lot of confidence, especially losing the way I did in the Championship League. It all sort of boiled up to a bad performance against Judd (Trump).

"I do feel like I'm a bit wayward now with my game. When my game is there, I'm as good as anyone, but it's getting that consistency, getting my game there all the time. You look at the likes of Ronnie (O'Sullivan), Judd, Selby, Neil Robertson, they're knocking on the door every week they play.

"For me, when I'm on song, I'm going deep. When I'm not, I'm getting beat in the second and third round.

"I just need to get back practising, go back to the drawing board and just try hard, as simple as that. It can all change on one shot, one win, and you can start feeling confident again."

Stuart Bingham

Bingham reached UK semi-finals in 2013, 2014 and 2018. Each time, he lost in the last four in deciding frames, against Robertson, O'Sullivan and Mark Allen.

The 44-year-old Englishman would dearly love to go one step further time this time round and reach one of the showpiece matches of the season. He'll start his campaign against fellow Basildon man Zak Surety, who Bingham knows well.

"We're practice partners, we're friends, I've seen him grow up," Bingham said. "He has done well to get back on the tour, after being in limbo land the last couple of years. I'm happy for him he's back on the tour. I just hope I'm not happy for him after our first round match.

"He's very raw, very talented. When he's on song, you can't put the balls safe, he knocks them in off the lampshades. He most probably needs to tighten up a little bit on his safety and shot selection, but that's part of learning your trade.

"He's had a couple of good results at the start of the season. It will be a tough game."

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