By Will Jennings
147 king Stuart Bingham’s passion for potting will always make him a dangerman, reckons Essex rival Ronnie O’Sullivan.
And the six-time world champion believes the Basildon potter’s ‘bottle’ means he has a cracking chance of defending his Masters crown in Milton Keynes next week.
World No.12 Bingham struck an eighth career maximum break against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the Championship League on Monday to cement his place in fourth on the all-time list.
Bingham’s total haul leaves him behind only O’Sullivan, John Higgins and record seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry after also making a max against Zak Surety in the UK Championship.
The 2015 world champion has now struck four of snooker’s last 15 147s and O’Sullivan, a seven-time Masters winner, believes ‘Ball Run’ Bingham’s taste for the big occasion will always make him a threat.
Bingham will face world No.16 Un-Nooh once again on Monday and O’Sullivan, 45, said: “Bingham’s got an appetite for snooker. [That’s] the biggest asset he has, apart from being a really good player anyway.
“He’s got a really good all-round game. He has this tremendous appetite for the game and he just loves playing.
“He’s won the Masters, the World [Championship] – he’s won a lot of big tournaments and has got a lot of good bottle.
“He’s still capable of winning the big tournaments and he’s still capable of competing against the top players and playing to a very high standard. I think Stuart will always be a dangerman.
“He played a great game against Judd in the last tournament [the World Grand Prix].
“I felt a bit for him, because I thought he played well enough to win, but Judd just found a gear and played three unbelievable frames.
“I felt sorry for Stuart because he didn’t actually do a lot wrong.”
Bingham, 44, went down 4-3 against world No.1 Judd Trump in the second round of the World Grand Prix as his frustrating season on the circuit continued.
The two-time Triple Crown winner is yet to progress past the fourth round of a ranking event but has a golden opportunity to become the first player to defend the Masters title since 2017 next week.
O’Sullivan romped to Alexandra Palace glory in 2016 and 2017 and while this year’s event was meant to be held at the atmospheric venue, a surge in coronavirus cases means it has now been moved behind closed doors to Milton Keynes.
The Covid-secure setup at the Marshall Arena has played host to all this season’s events, including Bingham’s recent defeat against Trump in the final event of the calendar year.
— Championship League Snooker (@CLSnooker) January 4, 2021
O’Sullivan watched that match closely and reckons Bingham, and not 2019 world champion Trump, would have gone on to lift a seventh ranking event trophy if he’d edged over the line.
The Rocket, who has lost just four times in 20 matches against Bingham and will play world No.9 Ding Junhui at the Masters, added: “I thought Stuart was playing well enough and if he got a chance in the last [frame], he’s playing well enough, and has got the bottle, to handle it and take it.
“When he didn’t take that one chance, I went ‘it’s over,’ and that’s all you’re going to get.
“You’re going to get that chance against Judd and if you don’t take it, it’s over. That’s not a criticism of Stuart, but it just shows you.
“I think he would have won that tournament if he’d have got past Judd. That’s how close it was.”
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