Barry Hawkins has rededicated himself to hard work on the practice table this season and his impressive run of results continued with a 6-2 defeat of Stuart Bingham to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo Players Championship.
The former world number four has slipped down the rankings in recent years and is currently 18th. But his form has improved this term and tonight’s result leaves him well positioned for a place in the top eight of the one-year list in time for next month’s Cazoo Tour Championship.
Hawkins goes through to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Jack Lisowski on Friday evening and is just two wins away from the £125,000 top prize in Milton Keynes. He will hope to improve his success rate in ranking semi-finals, having won just seven of his previous 24.
“Dropping down the rankings has given me a goal,” admitted the 41-year-old Londonder. “I needed a kick up the backside. I have dedicated myself this season and prepared properly for tournaments, rather than being half-hearted. It’s starting to pay off.
“I feel as if I am slowly improving. I have been consistent this season. I’m close to my best but until I win a tournament my confidence will not be sky high.”
From 2-1 down tonight, Hawkins made breaks of 80 and 54 to go 3-2 ahead. Frame six lasted 54 minutes and came down to a long safety battle with two reds left. Hawkins knocked in an excellent long pot on the penultimate red and took the frame, then added the next with a break of 70 for 5-2.
Three-time ranking event winner Hawkins led 40-0 in frame eight when he was unlucky to knock a red in as he split the pack from the blue. But he later made a crucial clearance on the colours, including a superb pot on the brown along the baulk cushion, to seal the result.
“It was a cagey start then the fourth frame was the pivotal moment, I got into the match after that,” said Hawkins. “The rankings issues have been going on in the background and it has been hard to put it out of my mind. It would be great to be at the Crucible at a seed because qualifying is every tough. If I could get into the Tour Championship as well that would be a bonus.”
Bingham, the 2015 World Champion, lies 22nd in the Race to the Crucible so must now hope for a deep run in the BetVictor Gibraltar Open or WST Pro Series, otherwise he’ll face the qualifiers in Sheffield.