World number 39 Anthony Hamilton has had to endure back and eye issues in the latter half of his career, but he believes the experience he has amassed is sustaining his spell in snooker’s upper echelon.
Hamilton got his 33rd season on the World Snooker Tour off to a strong start by topping his group at the BetVictor Championship League. However, the 52-year-old admits that he may not have long left as a professional.
Since claiming an emotional maiden ranking event win at the 2017 German Masters, Hamilton has managed to maintain his position in the world’s top 64 despite unsuccessful eye lens replacement surgery and difficulties with his back and neck. The Nottingham cueman is proud of how he has conducted himself in the face of adversity.
Hamilton said: “It is always the same, but a little bit worse each time we speak. Everything is chronic. You are just basically managing your body and trying to play to a certain standard without injuring yourself. I am probably 14 points behind every time I take my cue out of the case. I have to try to make those points up with my attitude, mental application and the tools I’ve picked up over the years. I personally look at my career in two halves. Pre-spine injury I think I underachieved for various reasons. I think in the second half I’ve over-performed because of all of the issues. The second half has been way less fruitful, but I’m prouder of it.
“We are the first generation, bar the likes of Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths, to treat it like a job. We are the first to do crazy long hours at the club. We are the guinea pigs of playing snooker constantly for 30 years. I know a lot of players are having issues. Either body issues, neck issues or eye issues. We are the age where things are wearing out after all those years of playing.
“I want to do coaching when my career ends and I would be asking my players, no matter what age they are, to do some extra-curricular stuff away from the table. If they want longevity, I would be asking them to do yoga and probably practice more efficiently. Better quality and less quantity. As a youngster, if you have a good work ethic, you want to keep playing and playing. Sometimes you can get the same out of playing two thirds less and use the other third to work on stuff like fitness and mental application. I wish someone took my cue away from the younger me after four hours and said to get on the bike or something.”
Despite thinking that younger players need to be more savvy with their practice regimes, Hamilton does believe some of the new generation lack the overall application required to hit the heights. However, he does see the required amount of drive drive in recent Crucible semi-finalist Si Jiahui and thinks that some other more tried and tested talents could be about to make breakthroughs.
“I didn’t have to be asked to take my cue out. I can see a few of the youngsters are a bit stuck to their phones. It can get a little bit lazy at times in the club. You get out what you put in. Yes, it is easier to get put off by your phone, but it depends how much you want it. I can tell that someone like Si Jiahui just plays snooker. He is fully invested. It will be interesting to find out how Si does this season. The World Championship might put a bit of pressure on him, but looking at the way he is, I just think he will plough through and start doing well.
“This is my 33rd year on tour, which is just crazy. Most of the players aren’t even 33 years old yet. I don’t know what some of the young players think of us old guys. They probably think we are hanging around like an old smell. I think the older we get, the worse we get but we can make up for that with experience. You can’t buy experience, you have to go through it.
“There are the medium aged players like Liam Highfield and Ashley Hugill. They are slow burners, who are learning the game as they go along. They are dedicated and are grafters. They are going to get some results at some point. The press like to see a brand new player come and do a Joe Johnson. Sometimes snooker isn’t like that. It is a slow burner and can take years to learn your trade. I think Hugill is a good example. I can see him overcoming his pitfalls and kicking on. It is almost like low 30s is the new low 20s and that is the age you are going to start getting towards your best at.”
Over the next couple of seasons Hamilton isn’t chaining himself to specific, performance based targets, but is setting himself the challenge of changing his mindset. He is determined to adopt a more fluent and free flowing way of cueing.
“I’m going to put this in a really boring way, this is how sports people are. We are a nightmare for you lot, because this isn’t very flashy, it is business like. My goal for the next two seasons is to hit the ball better and like I used to. I want to not stab in crappy 80s like I’ve been doing in the last few years and play like a proper snooker player again. I know I will lose a few matches for those reasons. It is a gamble to do it.
“I want to go out on my own terms though and feel like I’ve played properly. If some of that comes off good things can happen and I can get to another final. I want to take a few more risks, not in shot selection but how I strike the white ball. It is easy to go all safe with your cue action and make sure you don’t miss. That isn’t how the great players do it. Someone like Ronnie O’Sullivan has never fudged a shot in his lifetime. He is the extreme. I am trying to find 50 percent of what he does.”