STUART BINGHAM is determined to start his season right over a week of qualifying tournaments at Preston Guild Hall which will define his summer.
Ball Run will start the new campaign at the Indian Open Qualifiers (May 28-30), the World Open Qualifiers (May 31 to June 2) and Riga Masters Qualifiers (June 3-4).
Bingham warmed up this week by practicing with world No 77 Martin O’Donnell and 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy and says his game is in a good place after the short off-season break.
He said: “I was practicing on my own but felt I needed to play some other players and see how that went.
“I played Martin the other day and I came out on top, so that was a good sign because he is a good player.
“And I am visiting Shaun Murphy at his house in Nottingham today and I plan to get some practice in with him too. I need to sharpen up as much as possible because we’ve got three qualifiers in six days which are very important because if you don’t get the results you need in them it will basically mean taking three months off this summer.”
Bingham, who became the oldest player to become world champion in 37 years in 2015, turned 40 this week and feels he is good company in the “40s Club” with Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Alan McManus.
He said: “It didn’t really hit me I was turning 40 until the night before on Friday and then I started to think, ‘Oh my God – where has the time gone!’.
“But I still feel some of my best years can be in front of me because I still practice hard and I am just as enthusiastic about snooker as I have ever been.”
One man who is at the start of his snooker career is Bingham’s fellow Basildon-based player and practice partner Zak Surety, 24.
Surety fell just short of earning his place on the full Tour next year after a Q-School quarter-final defeat to Wales’ David John this week.
Bingham said: “It was such a shame to see Zak lose in that last match but he’ll come again I am sure.
“I had a practice with him after the World Championship and I really hoped he would get through.
“But it is very tough to come through the Q-School. I think some of the Chinese players made it and the competition is hard now.
“It has all changed from when I was moving into the professional game. Back then you just had to pay your £600 and you were in. It’s not that simple anymore!”