Anthony Hamilton reached his first ranking event final in 15 years by beating Stuart Bingham 6-4 at the F66.com German Masters.
Veteran Hamilton, 45, has come through a strong section of the draw in Berlin, knocking out Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins and now world number two Bingham. On Sunday he’ll face Ali Carter over 17 frames, with the winner to take the title and 80,000 Euro top prize.
Nottingham’s Hamilton will contest the third ranking final of his career, having lost to Fergal O’Brien at the 1999 British Open and Mark Williams at the 2002 China Open, when he led 8-5 only to lose 9-8. Victory at the Tempodrom on Sunday night would see the popular cueman finally shed the tag of ‘best player never to win a ranking event.’
It’s remarkable turnaround for Hamilton, who almost dropped off the professional tour last season. He just survived, and has enjoyed a dramatic improvement this term, winning 23 out of 35 matches.
Tonight’s match finished after 1am so he’ll hope to sleep well overnight to be fresh for another tough challenge against four-time ranking event winner Carter, who saw off Martin Gould 6-2 earlier today.
Bingham had a chance to win the opening frame but missed the last red to a corner pocket at 54-35, allowing Hamilton to snatch it. A run of 89 put world number 66 Hamilton 2-0 up before Bingham got the better of a scrappy 42-minute third frame.
The fourth came down to the last red and a cracking long pot from Hamilton set him up to clear for 3-1. In frame five, Bingham got the snooker he needed on the pink but then played a weak safety and Hamilton knocked the pink into a baulk corner for 4-1.
A marathon 47-minute sixth frame came down to a long tactical exchange, and Bingham could only get two of the three snookers he needed before his opponent potted yellow and green to go four up with five to play.
Bingham hit back with breaks of 49 and 80 to take the next two frames and when he made a 55 clearance to close to 5-4 he seemed to have the momentum. But a poor break off in frame ten proved his last shot as Hamilton made a match-winning 77.
“I’m a bit tired but really happy,” said Hamilton, whose parents Cliff and Stella have been among the crowd all week. “Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow and I’ll put up a good show. In the last frame I just tried to get on with it and show a positive mental attitude. That was pleasing because I had gone a bit.
“It would mean everything to win it, the same as it was to Mark King in Belfast. It’s nine long frames away so I can’t get carried away – I can do that if I get to seven or eight, then I’ll be gasping for air! I have to play better to stand a chance against Ali. I might have to push the boat out to get chances. Obviously he’s a better player than me so he has won most of our matches.”