STUART BINGHAM is looking forward to his latest battle with Ronnie O’Sullivan during the next stage of snooker’s Championship League tomorrow (June 8).
Ball-Run progressed after topping Group 1 following a 3-0 win over Jamie Clarke, and two 2-2 draws with Jordan Brown and Ricky Walden.
The world No 13 is now through to a winners’ Group C on Tuesday where he will face O’Sullivan, Harvey Chandler and yet-to-be-confirmed winner of Group 6, which will be concluded today (June 8).
O’Sullivan has not lost a frame so far in a non-ranking event being played behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes due to the Covid-19 measures.
Bingham said: “It all still feels a little bit odd because I am one of these players who would normally always play in every event I can to keep my sharpness up.
“Playing the first three matches will help – after being in certain situations – and I’ve been practicing the past couple of days, but it does still feel a bit alien.
“I think it is different for everyone but you just have to try and find your feet when the matches start.
“Some players have been practicing throughout the lockdown and some might have only had a week or two since we learned about this tournament.
“You can put in all the hours on your own but when it comes to a match it is a bit different.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow now and I was lucky enough to commentate on Ronnie’s last match. It looks like he is striking the ball well and he is a match for anyone, at any time.
“And when you are not sharp and you are playing someone like Ronnie it is going to be an uphill battle from the start.
“But you just have to keep your focus on your own game and play the shot in front of you.
“It got a bit twitchy at the end in my first group but hopefully I can avoid that again and put on a good show.”
The venue has an on-site hotel, allowing players and staff to be contained on the complex without having to leave, and everyone involved gets Covid-19 testing everyday.
Bingham added: “I came up last Tuesday to do some commentary work and it was a bit surreal.
“I was isolated and did the test – which wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t realise they could put something that far up your nose!
“You have to have it done when you come into the building, and that more or less made up my mind about staying here and not going home.
“Michele brought me up some more clothes and dropped it at the front door at the hotel, and they put it in an airlock and made sure it was all safe.
“And we are in what they call a bubble here. It means you are not allowed out of certain barriers and it is sign-posted where we can and can’t go.
“So there is a bit of cabin fever setting in. Especially after you have your test because after you are marched to your hotel room and you are not allowed out until you get the all-clear. You get the test done around 3-4pm and get the results between 11am and midday the next day.
“Luckily I signed up for Netflix a couple of weeks ago and it is just about keeping me sane. I’ve been watching The Last Dance and After Life, and I’d recommend both if people haven’t seen them.”
STUART BINGHAM says he plans to spend quite a bit of time on the practice table this Christmas in order to stay sharp for one of his favourite events of the season – the Masters.
Ball-run gets underway at the Triple Crown invitational against Mark Williams in the last of the first-round matches at 8pm on Wednesday, January 15.
Before that the Essex pro has qualifiers against Duane Jones in the European Masters (Dec 18) and Lu Ning (Dec 20) in the German Masters in Barnsley, and Bingham admits it will be a bit of a work-through for him in the festive period.
He said: “I’m going to keep playing through it with maybe a day off here and there, but I’ll keep playing.
“I think looking back I had too much time off in the summer. And I’ve never really done very well at the Masters, so I’d like to change that.
“I’ve got Mark Williams in my first match on the Wednesday night and to be honest that will be the longest I will have been in the Masters for a while because it is last up! So it will be nice to be there for longer than a day!
“So I’ll stay on the table as much as I can over Christmas, even if it is just an hour a day to keep my arm moving and then try and get some games in early January to gear up for the Masters.
“But I’m still looking forward to having a bit of time off with the kids and the family. We are going out locally for Christmas dinner this year. We normally have about 16-18 people round but Michelle didn’t want to do it this year so we decided to go out this time.”
Bingham enjoyed a three-match winning run at the UK Championship at the start of December against Lei Peifan (6-4), Martin Gould (6-4) and Zhao Xintong (6-1) before a 6-4 defeat to John Higgins, who also knocked him out of the World Open and Champion of Champions this winter.
But on Wednesday he suffered a frustrating early exit from the Scottish Open following a 4-2 defeat to Matthew Stevens.
After that match Bingham was subjected to dreadful online abuse from an internet troll in which the poster said highly distasteful things about his family.
Ball-run, who re-posted the comment and tagged in World Snooker to highlight the problem, said: “Nine times out of ten with this sort of thing it is a guy who has bet on me at 2-0 up and I lose 4-2 and they take their frustrations out on social media.
“I realise that I am in the public eye and will sometimes get this sort of thing aimed at me, but when it is vile comments about your family and your kids that crosses a line.
“Normally I would just block them but in this case I tagged World Snooker in to let them know what players have to put up with.
“I also just like to make these idiots famous for a couple of days because I know that they get lots back off of everyone who can then see how poorly they conduct themselves online.”