2017 German Masters winner Anthony Hamilton is hoping that recent eye lens replacement surgery can help to prolong his career, as he seeks a second ranking crown.
The 48-year-old decided to undertake the procedure, which involves his natural eye lenses being replaced with artificial ones, this summer. Frustratingly for Hamilton both his eyes became infected in the aftermath. This caused him to pull out of a recent International Championship qualifying match with David Grace at 4-1 down.
The infection has now subsided and Hamilton is hoping to put his eyes to the test at the upcoming Riga Masters.
Hamilton said: “I couldn’t really see properly at all during the match with David. Rather than just sit through the last three or four frames and miss all over the shop, I thought it was prudent to stop. You can battle on through the rest of the game and try to be all courageous, but you aren’t really competing at a high enough level to do any justice to the spectacle.
“I actually did make a century in that match. Some of the time you can play shots from memory. You’d be surprised how little you actually do use your eyes. The thing was that as the game went on I began to get double and treble vision. It was freaking me out and I couldn’t really play.
“I decided to get the operation for both snooker reasons and everyday life, but it was mainly about the snooker. I had tried playing with glasses and contact lenses, but neither were working. I tried all of the routes and this was the only way that I could finish my career. It was a big step, but even if it doesn’t work out in snooker terms, I will still have good vision for the rest of my life. It is getting better week by week. My eyes are just adjusting to situations where there is a lot of light. We will see what it is like in Riga, as things are magnified in match arenas like that with the lighting.”
Hamilton’s dramatic maiden ranking victory at the 2017 German Masters came 26-years after turning professional in 1991. However, the joyous immediate aftermath was followed by a troublesome 2017/18 season. Chronic back problems flared up and he suffered first round defeats in nine of the 16 ranking events he entered.
That left the Sheriff of Pottingham with a mountain to climb to achieve tour survival last season. It was a task which he stepped up to, reaching semi-finals at the European Masters and Indian Open to help him to 62nd in the world rankings and safety from relegation.
“I was very chuffed to be in the top 64. It would have been fine to stay on by the one-year list route, but this gives me an opportunity and a platform to kick on. I stayed fit for most of last season and was able to practice properly again. The year before I struggled with my back, but that is my life now. It is going to come and go and I need to cash in on the good times. I know full well there will be periods when things become inflamed and things are tough. That doesn’t mean I can’t still make the most of it when things are alright.”
Despite thinking there could be an inevitability for back problems, Hamilton does feel that younger cueists could be doing more to prolong their careers.
He advised: “Overworking is the problem. If you want to save yourself, then you need to start doing it in your 20s. Back in the old days I used to play for six hours a day, simply because I enjoyed it. In reality, three or four would have sufficed. You aren’t going to play any better after six hours than you are after three. I think a lot of it is also down to the individual and their style of stance. Some people put pressure on their bodies and some don’t. I’ve seen some players that look like they could be on the shot for a year and not feel pain.
“If I was a 28-year-old then I’d be gutted about my condition, but I am 48 and these things will happen. I’ve been practising too much for too long. Anyone who takes the sport seriously and has a certain sort of technique is going to get injured these days. You need to have the same attitude as tennis or football players, they see injuries as part and parcel of the process.”
Hamilton’s victory at the 2017 German Masters was an emotional one.
With his back problems currently in check and his eye surgery completed, Hamilton is optimistic about his career going forward and maintains hopes of gaining further ranking silverware. However, that title winning belief is something which he admits wasn’t there prior to his 2017 Berlin triumph.
“After I got injured in 2007/08, I had assumed that I couldn’t play snooker well enough to win tournaments anymore and I had stopped even believing it would happen. That was actually quite nice. I didn’t want to be thinking about previous half failures. That changed a bit when I got to the semi-finals of the 2016 Northern Ireland Open. I lost to Barry Hawkins, but the way I played in the second half of that match was the best I have felt in about ten years. Even losing that game gave me a massive buzz. I felt like a proper snooker player again.
“The more pressure I have been under recently, the better I have seemed to perform. I like myself to be under a bit of pressure. I hope the pressure stays up in my head, because I assume that I only have a few years left and I want to finish my career well.
“Winning another event can definitely happen, but so can two other things. I could quite easily drop off the tour and I could quite easily just keep going along and maintaining my professional status without threatening a tournament victory. I just want to get to another final and try to win it if I can. You cannot beat playing in a final. I’ve lost two of them, but they are still fabulous. They are the best days of your life and a great buzz. If I get to another final I will be happy.”