Barry and Bingham looking to boost top 16 hopes in Telford

After qualifying for the final stages of the UK Championship in Telford, Barry Hawkins and Stuart Bingham have been talking about their hopes for the tournament and how it might prove to be a timely boost to their top 16 hopes…

Stuart told the Echo:

“My qualifier against Jimmy wasn’t good snooker — in fact it’s probably the worst I’ve played for some time,”

“I may have won 9-3 thanks to a run of six frames on the trot from 2-2, but the top break of the match was only around the 68 mark.

“I think my last meeting with Mark Allen was when we finished 2-2 in the Premier League qualifying.

“I don’t think he’s done much this season apart from his Bahrain performance, but he’ll be a tough opponent.”

“I had a good UK run a couple of years ago when I made the quarter-finals before losing 9-8 to Joe Perry,”

“To match that or even better it would be a big bonus for me.”

While Barry had this to say to the Dartford Times:

“My aim is to stay in the top 16 as I had a terrible run last time and really fell apart,”

“I have been working on getting the form back and now I want to reach and win a final.

“The problem was that last time I got ranked that high I struggled with my form but now I know what to expect.”

“Marco did very well last year and he has a good record behind him but I have beaten him once in 2008 and he has had the best start to the season,”

“If I can play to the top of my game I can go far and I have to go there thinking I can win but now my only thoughts are on beating Marco.”

“She [his pregnant girlfriend] has six weeks to go and it is definitely a positive because it has made me much more determined,”

“People saw when you have a family to feed it gives you that extra motivation and it seems to be working.

Stuart, who has never finished the season ranked inside the elite top 16,  started the season ranked 15th provisionally but barring a last 16 run in the Shanghai Masters it has been a pretty unspectacular campaign for him so far in 2008/9. Sitting in 20th place in the provisional rankings now, the UK Championship would be a great time for him to go on a good run, particularly as there are more ranking points on offer this week than at any other event barring the World Championship.

It is not going to be easy though as in Mark Allen he has an opponent who I really rate and think will win a tournament sooner rather than later. While it is true that his season has not been amazing so far, it is a bit unfair for Stuart to say that he has ‘not done much’ apart from his Bahrain semi as of course he made the quarter-finals in the Northern Ireland Trophy in August as well. It was also this tournament last season where Mark had one of his most notable wins, a crushing 9-4 victory against Stephen Hendry, so he knows how to win here.

As for Barry, his situation is almost the opposite as it was last season where he was outside the top 16, but an improved run of results this time around has seen him move up to 13th on the provisional list. After a terrible 2006/7 season where he dropped from 12th to 19th in the rankings, Barry has now steadied the ship and got his form back to somewhere near the standard that saw him reach three semi-finals beforehand. Though his opponent Marco Fu is an excellent player, he hasn’t really built on his Grand Prix victory last year so far and perhaps this is one of the early matches where there might just be an upset…