Stuart Bingham wants to scale new heights after his fairytale Betfred World Championship triumph.
At the age of 38, Bingham surprised almost everyone, including himself, by storming to the Crucible title.
Victories over former champions Graeme Dott, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy, plus the hotly-tipped Judd Trump, meant 50/1 pre-tournament outsider Bingham lifted the trophy for the first time.
“After 20 years of blood, sweat and tears, this is the moment that is going to change my life forever,” said an emotional Bingham.
He has leapt from 10th to second place in the world rankings, and now has an eye on Mark Selby at number one.
“Of course it is the target. If I can win the World Championship everything is a target,” Bingham said.
Bingham has said the £300,000 prize-money is insignificant when measured against the honour of having the trophy. But he does have plans for the biggest cheque of his career, including a treat for wife Michelle.
“I may swap the missus’ car for something nice, she’s got a Vauxhall Astra at the moment,” Bingham said. “I’ve been talking about it this season, but now it’s a definite.
“We were going to move house last year, but that’s made it a little easier to move now.”
The only negative from his victory came with the thought that no first-time winner has ever successfully defended the title in Sheffield. Mark Selby was the latest victim of the ’Crucible curse’ this year.
Bingham joked he would aim for Stephen Hendry’s modern era record of seven titles, but added: “I’ve got the ’Crucible curse’ for next year, I’m not looking forward to that already.”
Yet Bingham is not a player to write off. He thrived when the crowd was against him for the matches against O’Sullivan and Trump, and being accused of having “no bottle” by Mark Allen spurred Bingham four years ago to land his first major trophy, the Australian Open.
“All the people cheering for Ronnie, for Judd and for Shaun gets me going,” Bingham said. “That happened in 2011 with Mark Allen, and it gave me that extra 10% to do well.”
The manner of Bingham’s 18-15 win against Murphy, when he supremely held himself together in the closing frames, including one lasting over an hour, impressed all who watched on.
Among those was Joe Johnson, the 1986 world champion. When Johnson took the title he was at a similar place in his career that Bingham occupied before his run to glory.
“There are a lot of parallels with the year I won it,” Johnson said. “I had just got in the top 16 that year and I wasn’t tipped to win anything, let alone the World Championship.
“I didn’t really expect it myself. But the further I went, the more relaxed I got because I didn’t feel too much pressure and I saw that in Stuart Bingham.”
The peak viewing figure for the final on BBC Two was 4.5million, while many more on Eurosport and abroad witnessed Bingham’s greatest moment. Some will have been watching the long-time journeyman in action for the first time.
Johnson added: “My mother-in-law said to me on the day of the final ’Who’s Stuart Bingham? I haven’t seen much of him before’.
“And this will change his life.”
It may prove to be a one-off for the Basildon man, but the World Championship cannot be won by fluke. It took a series of phenomenal performances, Bingham playing the finest snooker of his life.
As Johnson said: “To beat Ronnie, Judd and Shaun and those after a former champion in Graeme Dott, he deserves it and then some.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved