21 May 2008
Every week over the summer months, worldsnooker.com will be bringing you Q&As with leading players, looking back on last season and ahead to next term. To start off, it's Stuart 'Ball Run' Bingham.
How would you sum up last season?
It was a weird one, I didn't feel as if I played that well, but I went up in the rankings so I suppose it was a pretty good one. It was consistent - I only lost one first round match. I started the season with a new cue - I only got it 14 days before the Shanghai qualifiers. I beat Alan McManus 5-4 to qualify for China and that gave me a lot of confidence.
What was the thinking behind changing your cue?
I'd had the previous one since I won the World Amateur in 1996, so that's 11 years. It was getting very brittle and I had to change the ferrell every six months. So I decided to get a new one made for me by Cuedoctor. Once I got used to it I was really happy with it.
You got to the quarter-finals in Shanghai, losing to Mark Selby - was that a great start to the season or an opportunity missed?
It was a chance to go further although Selby was obviously on cloud nine for most of the season and playing really well. We could all see from the start of the event the Dominic Dale was flying - he was making centuries when most of us couldn't make 30, so he deserved to win it.
What was the highlight of the season?
Getting to the Crucible, as I hadn't made it for so long. I beat Adrian Gunnell 10-3 in the final qualifying round. I beat Steve Davis at Sheffield which is something to remember, although I didn't play well in the match.
And your low point?
I lost 5-2 to Joe Perry in the last 16 of the Welsh Open and played so badly it was embarrassing.
What are your targets for next season?
To get into the top 16. I start 15th on the one-year list next season and if I can get the same results as I got this season, I should get in. The other one is to get past the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time. Ali Carter and Joe Perry met in the semis at the Crucible - they are both great players but I grew up with them and they are no different to me.
Will you do anything differently on or off the table?
I'm going to get fitter by going to the gym more. Since the start of this year I've been going regularly, but I want to step that up. I remember the first time I qualified for China in 1999, I saw Ronnie O'Sullivan in the gym at the hotel on the running machine and he told me I should do the same. I didn't think anything of it at the time but it's obvious now how much it has helped him. I think in any sport, being physically and mentally fit is an advantage.
What are your plans for the summer?
I'll be playing a lot of golf, my handicap is 6 at the moment but I want to get down to 3 or 4 this summer. I'm taking some lessons and aiming to get my driving sorted out as that is my weakness. I've also just booked a holiday in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands with my girlfriend Lindsey in June, which I'm really looking forward to.
Will you be playing much snooker over the summer?
I've already played at Pontin's where I won a Pro-Am event, and I'm going to Thailand in July for a six reds tournament. Usually in the summer I'd put my cue away for a couple of months, but it's only three months until next season starts at the Northern Ireland Trophy so I'd prefer to keep ticking over.