Anthony Hamilton won the first world ranking title of his 26-year professional career by beating Ali Carter 9-6 in the final of the F66.com German Masters.
Hamilton played tremendous snooker in the closing stages at the Tempodrom in Berlin as he came from 5-2 down to win seven of the last eight frames. At the age of 45, the Nottingham cueman is the oldest winner of a ranking event since a 46-year-old Doug Mountjoy captured the 1989 Classic.
And Hamilton has done it in fine style, beating the top two players in the world, Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, as well as Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins, to reach the final before outplaying Carter when it mattered most.
Victory gives Hamilton the biggest pay day of his career, 80,000 Euros, and he leaps from 66th to 38th in the world rankings. His triumph is all the more remarkable for the fact that last season he was almost relegated from the professional circuit, his game adversely affected by a chronic spinal condition. He had to win two matches at the 2016 Gdynia Open to keep his tour card, and he did just that.
In recent months he has shown an improvement in form, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open in November. It was Mark King who went on to win that title in Belfast, and tonight produced a similar fairytale finish for a popular player who has fought hard on the tour for a quarter of a century to gain a deserved reward.
This was Hamilton’s third ranking final and first for 15 years, having lost at the 1999 British Open to Fergal O’Brien and at the 2002 China Open against Mark Williams, when he crumbled under pressure and squandered an 8-5 lead. This time, he showed admirable composure when the winning line came into view.
Previously regarded by most of his fellow pros as the best player never to win a ranking title, he has now shed that tag forever. Fittingly, his parents Cliff and Stella were among the enthusiastic crowd to see their son celebrate the best moment of his career.
Carter missed out the chance to win a fifth world ranking title and to capture this crown for the second time having won it in 2013. The 37-year-old from Chelmsford had been bidding for a second ranking title of the season having landed the World Open in July. He lost a ranking final for the fourth time but still moves up from 14th to 11th in the world.
Trailing 5-3 after the first session, Hamilton stormed back tonight by winning the first four frames in a row with breaks of 49, 118, 73 and 74.
Carter made 53 in the next before missing the black off its spot, and Hamilton punished him with an excellent 70 clearance to go three up with four to play.
In frame 14, Carter missed a red along the top cushion on 41, but this time the balls ran safe and he got another chance, adding 42 to cut his arrears to 8-6.
But there was to be no fight back. Hamilton trapped his opponent in a snooker early in frame 15, and from the chance that followed he made a well-crafted 57, sinking a tricky plant on the third-last red which left Carter needing snookers. Shortly afterwards, the handshake came.
“It’s crazy to win a tournament when I’ve stopped thinking about how to do it,” said Hamilton, a four-time Crucible quarter-finalist. “I stopped wanting it so badly and that took the pressure off. It just feels strange to win another match and now I’m sitting here with a trophy. I’ve struggled for most of this week, but then found some form at the end from absolutely nowhere. I couldn’t pot a ball up until tonight, then played the best snooker of my life.
“The key moments were at 3-0 and 5-2 down because I was really tired, I was cueing badly. I won the last frame this afternoon for 5-3 – maybe if it had been 6-2 it was all over. When it was 8-5, that was the same score I had at the China Open in 2002 and I couldn’t keep that out of my mind. That just added to the stress, it was not a nice place to be. I just tried to concentrate and breathe properly and wait for a chance.
“I’ve had some nice words from the players this week, especially Mark Selby, he was texting me saying he wanted me to win. I felt some support from the crowd today because I hadn’t won a title before and maybe that put some pressure on Ali.
“My mum and dad were here for the first time, I just wanted them to see me play here once before I retire because it’s one of the best venues we’ve got. And how lucky that I ended up winning the tournament.
“Last season I told myself to stop chucking the toys out of the pram and to try to do the right thing whatever happens. Just be calm and try to the end. If you drive home after a loss but you’ve tried your best, you can be happy.”
Carter said: “I missed a plant at 5-2 when I could have gone 6-2 up, that was the key moment for me. Every credit to Anthony because he played well tonight. I didn’t feel I did that much wrong. I’m not the best loser in the world but I didn’t throw this one away. Getting to finals is great but it’s not what I’m here for. I have won one title this season and almost another so my game is in good shape.”
Both players now head to the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston, which starts on Monday.
Photos taken by Diana Schuler of WLBS and Oliver Behrendt of contrast photoagentur.