MAN OF the moment Stuart Bingham is hoping to make it third time lucky in Coventry when he returns to the Ricoh Arena for the eagerly anticipated Champion of Champions event as World Champion.
The 39-year-old shocked the world of sport last month by winning the Snooker’s elite prize against all odds at Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
Bingham beat off the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy to lift the famous crown for the first time in his career.
And he is hoping to return to Coventry and go one better than his final appearance against Ronnie O’Sullivan back in 2013.
“It’s a great tournament,” Bingham told the Observer. “It’s taken over from the Premier League but it’s a great venue at the Ricoh Arena.
“The table plays lovely, we always get good crowds and it’s certainly an event that I look forward to.
“The one table setup straight away makes it feel like a semi-final in some ways straight away which is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular event especially with the big players.
And also you’re there on merit because you’ve won a tournament to get there and you’re only playing the best players in the world.
So straight away you’re down to one table in front of a big crowd and it’s great. I think it’s a brilliant event.
“I got beat in the final 10-8 by Ronnie O’Sullivan and then I got beat by Ronnie in my first round match the second year.
“So I’ll come back to Coventry again and hope to make it third time lucky but I’ll need to avoid Ronnie to have any chance of winning!”
The introduction of Barry Hearn as World Snooker Chairman has seen the sport revolutionised in recent years under his stewardship.
There are now 15 ranking events on the calender compared to just a handful when Bingham turned professional back in 1995.
And although he is very supportive of the new schedule, Bingham is glad to be playing in another event that is much closer to home.
“We travel everywhere now. One week we’re in India, the next week we’re in Thailand the week after that we’re in China, so it’s nice to see the inside of a car instead of a plane!
“I always tend to have a good following from my friends and family from home. My wife was up there last time I was in the final and Ronnie (O’Sullivan) had his fiance there too so they were chatting to each other.
“It’s good to have 15-20 people come from home and support you. Coventry is only two hours away from where I’m from so it’s nice to see those familiar faces when I’m playing.”
Bingham had already qualified for the Champion of Champions event having won the Shanghai Masters earlier in the season.
And Bingham was full of praise for the event organisers who have helped it grow to become more prestigious year-on-year.
“It does have that Masters feel to it because you’re straight in at the deep end and you’re mixing it with the big boys so to speak straight away.
“The Masters is a very prestigious event that every player wants to be involved with and I think the Champion of Champions is heading that way too.
“We were upstairs in one of the rooms and you could see the pitch there and it looks fantastic. It’s a fantastic stadium but I’ve never been to watch the football there, just for the snooker!”
The newly-crowned World Champion, who became only the second player to win both the amateur and senior world title, felt his name was on the trophy when he knocked out favourite Trump in the final four.
He added: “I got through my first round against Robbie Williams with a bit of a cold, and then went from strength to strength.
“I had a great win over Graeme Dott and then a great, great win over Ronnie.
“I was worried playing Judd (Trump), because I needed to capitalise on my chance. Judd had a kick when it was 16-16. Sometimes your name is on the trophy.
“I was the underdog against Ronnie and Judd, but when I came out for the final I might have had 80 per cent of the crowd and I just thought ‘wow’. It’s just unbelievable to be sitting here as world champion.
“Just to witness and experience the final, I didn’t care if I won or lost to start with. In the first session I came out at 4-4 and then I thought ‘I can do this.’ Then we had a good battle until the end.”