Stephen Maguire beat Stuart Bingham 9-8 in a dramatic BetVictor Welsh Open final to end a drought of five years without a ranking title
A superb final which featured three centuries and 11 more breaks over 50 saw Maguire make a nerveless 82 in the deciding frame to capture the fifth world ranking title of his career and first since the 2008 China Open.
A full house at the Newport Centre saw Glasgow’s 31-year-old Maguire receive the trophy and £50,000 at the end of a tremendous tournament featuring top class snooker, thrilling fight backs, clearances and tense finishes, excellent crowds and even this.
Maguire punched the table as he crossed the winning line, revealing just how desperate he was to end a long spell without a major crown. He had lost his previous three ranking finals, each of which he could have won, and while he has taken Players Tour Championship titles over the past two seasons, it is success on the big stage that the gifted Scot craves.
Bingham looked to be in control when he won five out of six frames to lead 7-5, with Maguire’s temperament showing signs of cracking, but the match hinged on a tense 13th frame which Maguire won on the last black. Ultimately it was the seventh Welsh Open final since 1999 to go to a deciding frame.
After struggling for form in the first half of the season, Maguire sharpened up at the recent Championship League, though he had to come from 3-1 down to beat Mark Joyce 4-3 just to qualify for Newport. Now he’s up to number six in the world and is sure to be a danger in the latter part of the season.
Bingham is enjoying the best season of his career, having won the Premier League and two APTC events. After 15 years struggling to make a breakthrough, he has made huge strides since winning the Australian Goldfields Open in 2011 and has proved his ability to produce his best on the big occasion. Despite just missing out on his second ranking title, he is up to a career high of number seven in the world.
Bingham won the opening frame of the evening session with a break of 73 to take the lead for the first time at 5-4. In frame ten, Maguire missed a black off its spot at 37-16, but earned another chance with a clever plant on a red and made a 71 to restore parity.
The big breaks continued to fly in as Bingham made his first century of the match, a 118, to lead 6-5. In frame 12, he made 36 before missing the blue when splitting the pack. Maguire lost his chance to counter after just one red when he missed a black off its spot. He got another chance but over-cut a red to a top corner and Bingham took advantage for 7-5 at the mid-session interval.
A dramatic 13th frame came down to a safety battle on the final blue. Bingham laid a tight snooker behind the pink, but in doing so fluked the blue into a middle pocket. Almost touching the pink, he was unable to chip it into the same pocket. Maguire converted an excellent pot and added the black to close to within one frame.
Bingham led 40-0 in the next when he missed a thin blue off its spot. He later failed on a long pot with four reds left, and Maguire knocked in a double to initiate an excellent 42 clearance to the blue which brought him level at 7-7. Early in the 15th, Bingham missed a tough red to a centre pocket, and Maguire’s clinical 77 saw him edge in front.
The Scot looked set for victory in frame 16 until he missed a tricky red at 59-6. And when he failed to escape from a snooker with four reds left, Bingham fashioned a cool 58 clearance to force the decider.
After some 15 minutes of jousting, Bingham decided to take on a risky plant on two reds, but missed his target. And gritty Maguire showed his quality with a fine 82 to clinch the tie.
“I’m delighted, especially the way I finished,” said Maguire. “I thought I had let it slip when it went 8-8 as Stuart made a great clearance and I wasn’t feeling good. I was chuffed to get a chance in the last frame and make it count.
“I’ll feel great for the next couple of days and then it’s on to the next tournament. I want to push on and not have to wait another five years for the next one. There were times when I doubted whether I would ever do it again. It has hurt to see other players lift trophies, especially when I think I’m a better player than some of them.”
Reflecting on the final, Maguire added: “I though I was beat, I was almost resigned to losing, I was just trying to keep calm. It should have been 8-5, he refused some balls when he had the chance to kill me off. That spurred me on and I got the bit between my teeth. To win that frame to go 7-6 was massive.
“I lost a couple of finals last season which were painful. I should have beaten Ronnie in Germany, then I played Ebdon in China and I was fighting for my life but the last frame just got away from me. So to win this one is sweet.”
Bingham said: “I feel as if I threw it away, I just tightened up a bit towards the end. It would have meant so much to win it so I’m gutted. I should have gone 8-5 up, I missed an easy pink, I was just scared of playing a push shot. Then in the next frame I was 40 ahead and missed a bad blue. I held myself together to make a clearance to go 8-8 but just couldn’t get a chance in the decider. I never go for plants unless they are 100 per cent, I thought the one I went for was perfect so maybe I got a kick. Stephen showed what a class act he is with his break in the last.
“I thought I was the better player tonight, I took the match to him to go 7-5. But then I had chances and I blew it. It has been a great season and my game is in good shape, it just didn’t quite happen today.”