Stuart Bingham: Masters champion ‘will always have haters’ despite victory

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Stuart Bingham says he “will always have haters” after becoming the oldest winner of the Masters and claiming his second Triple Crown event title.

Bingham, 43, defeated Ali Carter 10-8 in a thrilling final at Alexandra Palace to add to his shock World Championship triumph five years ago.

He missed the 2018 Masters as he served a six-month ban for betting breaches.

Bingham, who had denied betting on his own matches, said people “still call me a cheat”.

The Basildon player was sanctioned in October 2017 for breaking rules which state players are not allowed to bet on their own matches or those involving other professionals.

But despite a World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) probe acknowledging there was no suggestion that Bingham aimed to “influence matches or engage in any corrupt activity”, some critics on social media have still not forgiven him for the incident.

The detractors also suggest he got lucky by winning the 2015 World title in Sheffield, while this latest victory came in a tournament which seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan decided not to enter.

“The people in the game know my World Championship win was not a fluke,” he told BBC Sport. “You will always have haters, even with winning this.

“People will say I got lucky or I won because Ronnie was not playing. No matter how much you explain to them, or talk to them about what did not happen with the betting, they don’t believe you – they will still call me a cheat.

Asked if the criticism hurt, Bingham tapped the Paul Hunter Trophy beside him and said: “It did, but with this little beauty now, it does not hurt any more. You can say what you want, I am more strong-minded and I will get on with my life.”

Bingham aims to complete Triple Crown series

Before this month’s tournament, Bingham’s record at the Masters was dreadful, with eight first-round defeats from nine previous appearances.

But he has now won two of snooker’s biggest prizes – along with a record £250,000 winners’ prize money – and will aim to complete the Triple Crown series by winning the UK Championship.

Should he manage to do so, he will join an elite list of only 11 players to have achieved the feat, including seven who are still competing.

Bingham had led 5-3 after the first session of the final, but fell 7-5 behind to Carter before launching a devastating comeback of his own, winning the match in style with his only century break of the whole tournament.

“I have been close to getting to the UK final three times and it would be great [to win it],” he said. “If I play like I did then anything is possible. If it does not happen, then I have still had a good career.

“Every tournament I am winning, I am putting myself into the history of the sport and to claim that would be fantastic. Growing up as a kid, watching the likes of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, to have a chance to be amongst that would be unbelievable.

“The money is great, it helps you live and that comes and goes, but my name is etched on the trophy forever. That means the world to me.”

More tattoos to come

Bingham has a keen interest in tattoos and has an animal inked on his back every time he wins a trophy.

Currently, he has three lions to signify his wins in England at the World Championship, English Open and Premier League, a koala for the Australia Open, a barbary ape for the Gibraltar Open and a double-headed dragon for claiming the Shanghai Masters and Welsh Open.

When asked what he will get done next, Bingham was open to suggestions.

He added: “I would like to keep the animal theme going, what can we come up with? My tattooist was with me and I will see what he says. I want to get my sleeve done, maybe it will just be a symbol of the trophy?”

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