It will be Stuart Bingham vs Mark Davis in the Final today and here is how we came to this:
Stuart Bingham reached his ninth career ranking final by beating Stephen Maguire 6-3 at the BetVictor English Open.
Basildon’s Bingham came from 3-2 down to win the last four frames against Glasgow’s Maguire to reach his first ranking final since the 2017 European Masters. He is chasing his fifth career ranking title and first since the Welsh Open in February 2017.
The 42-year-old will face Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Davis over 17 frames at K2 Crawley on Sunday, with the winner to collect the Steve Davis Trophy and a top prize of £70,000.
Maguire made breaks of 69 and 72 to lead 2-1 then world number 15 Bingham levelled with a run of 76. After the interval, Maguire regained the lead with a 93 before Bingham squared the match again with a 72.
A tight seventh frame went the way of 2015 World Champion Bingham as he went ahead at 4-3. In frame eight, Maguire trailed 33-56 when he missed a tough pot on the final green along the side cushion. Bingham slotted in the green to extend his lead.
World number 16 Maguire looked set to win frame nine but missed the penultimate red to a top corner at 55-35. Bingham made a cool 36 clearance to book his final place.
“I don’t feel as if I played that well, I missed a lot of easy balls,” said Bingham after reaching his first ranking final since returning from a three-month ban for breaching betting rules. “I felt a bit of pressure out there and the scoreline flattered me. When I looked at my half of the draw at the start of the week I could see it was very tough, so I’m happy to get to the final. I don’t care who I play. If it’s Ronnie it will be a big occasion but it would also be great to play Mark because he’s a mate.”
Maguire said: “I missed too many balls, I had loads of chances. If you miss those kind of balls you deserve to lose. The table had been re-covered and I couldn’t get used to it. My positional play was like a 12-year-old’s. I knew after the first frame I was all over the place. I thought I would get used to it, but I didn’t. You can’t win if you can’t control the white.
“The most important thing this week is that my sciatica has been a lot better. I will get some work done on it next week and hopefully I’ll be ok to go to the International Championship in China.”
Neither player was at his best in this match, and Maguire in particular looked out of sorts.
Having lost in five previous ranking semi-finals, 46-year-old Davis could have been forgiven for thinking he might never make it to a final. But he produced one of the best performances of his career to send defending champion O’Sullivan crashing out.
Davis has travelled the world since 1991, playing in over 100 ranking tournaments across the planet, and has now reached his first final in Crawley, just 45 minutes away from his home in Hastings. He will face Stuart Bingham over 17 frames on Sunday for the Steve Davis Trophy and a top prize of £70,000. Victory would make Davis the oldest winner of a ranking event since Doug Mountjoy won the 1989 Classic.
O’Sullivan made errors throughout the contest as he slipped to his first defeat of the season, having won four matches to take the Shanghai Masters title last month and five more to reach the semi-finals this week.
World number 45 Davis dominated the opening frame, then O’Sullivan made it 1-1 with a break of 56, which turned out to be his highest of the match. Runs of 102, 93, 84 and 65 gave Davis four frames in a row as he surged 5-1 ahead. He trailed by 27 points in frame seven, but made 52 before playing safe, and he later trapped O’Sullivan in a tough snooker which created the chance to seal the result.
“It’s amazing to get to my first final, I can’t believe it,” said Davis, who was watched by son Jack and daughter Millie. “A few weeks ago I was struggling with my game. I was practising with Jimmy Robertson and I just said ‘I can’t play any more’ and walked out of the club. I never usually do that but it wasn’t good. But I have kept working at it and my game has turned around.
“Perhaps subconsciously it has given me a lift, playing in front of friends and family this week. I had a lot of support out there tonight. I have had a tough draw this week but if I play well I can give anyone a game. I’ll just try to keep the same thoughts and enjoy the match tomorrow. It would mean everything to win it, but that is still a million miles away.”
O’Sullivan said: “He played well and I didn’t put up much of a fight, I was lucky to get a frame. I was outplayed.”
Ronnie’s defence came to an end in the Semi Finals yesterday with a very poor performance and it’s legitimate to ask one-self how much the foul incident in the QF match did affect his state of mind. Since working with Steve Peters Ronnie has been able to manage his emotions far better but that does not mean he’s immune to them and all reports I got stated that he was really mortified after what happened.
There were inevitably people talking about “cheating” but lots of players, and WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson himself, came on social media clearly stating that Ronnie’s integrity was absolutely not questioned. He’s never been anything but totally honest. But Ronnie himself felt very bad and probably the tought entered his head that he didn’t deserve to be in the semi-finals.
That said Mark Davis played extremely well, as he had all week. We shouldn’t forget that he had beaten John Higgins and Neil Robertson to come to that stage. He might well have won this match even if Ronnie had not been as out of sorts as he obviously was. It’s sad that Ronnie’s run had to end this way, not the fact that he lost – that’s sport – but how he lost, and the circumstances around the match.
As you can hear, in the aftermatch, Neil Foulds did question Ronnie’s decision to tinker with his game, and his sighting. I tend to agree with him. Of course, it’s only commandable that even after so many years and so many titles, Ronnie still wants to improve. But there is also a risk that it could destroy his game too. I hope he sits back, discusses it with people who have been at his side for a long time and, maybe, reconsiders. I’m not convinced sightright is working for him (which does not mean it doesn’t work for others, it clearly did for Willo, but everyone is different)
I have met Mark Davis many times on the tour, and at SWSA, and he really is a lovely man. I will be supporting him today. After 27 years of hard graft as a pro, this is his first final, close to his home, with his family watching. It would be fantastic – and totally deserved – for him to lift the trophy tonight.
People on social media call him “Dark Mavis”, but many fellow pros use another nickname: “The Smiler”. That says a lot. Good luck, Mark!
And on a lighter note…