Anthony Hamilton was clinging on for tour survival last season. However, after some strong showings towards the end of the season, the Sheriff of Pottingham managed to regain a two-year tour card thanks to the European Tour Order of Merit. Now he’s looking to keep the pressure on himself in a bid to push up the world rankings.
We caught up with the 45-year-old as he prepares to head out to Fürth to compete in the Paul Hunter Classic, an event where he has had success before…
Anthony, you reached the final of the 2010 Paul Hunter Classic where you lost 4-3 to Judd Trump. Can you tell us a bit about your memories of that event?
“I remember from the final how close the fans get to the table. It creates a really unique atmosphere and to have a good final against Judd was really fitting for the event, although it was obviously a shame to lose out 4-3. The tournament is played in a really nice spirit, it’s named after one of our greatest ever players and is held in the most well supported country in continental Europe. It’s like playing in 1980s Britain. The crowd are incredibly appreciative.”
You nearly dropped off the tour at the end of last year but strong performances at the European Tour events helped you reclaim a two-year tour card. Do you feel that to an extent the pressure is now off?
“It is, however that’s dangerous. I loved playing under pressure last year, I buzzed off it. From October onwards I knew there was a good chance that I’d lose my card. I got my head down for that period and really enjoyed it. The pressure made me feel as if I was 20 years old again. I want to keep the attitude going that every shot is life or death.
“The fact that my money from last year’s list is now wiped makes things totally different as well. It will mean I normally have to face a seeded player in the early rounds, but in a way that suits me. I think I find it easier to play the top 16. I get a natural buzz to it and it also opens up the draw for you if you win that first match.”
There have been an increasing number or players competing well into their 40s and 50s. Alan McManus reached the semi-finals of the World Championship, Darren Morgan and Nigel Bond have also made semi-finals this year. Why do you think that is?
“Because they are from the best generation. In my opinion, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins are still comfortably the best in the world. The group of players that came through off the back of the 1980s boom are definitely the best ever generation.
“There’s no doubt that there is more strength in depth now, I’d say we have about 85 great players on the tour, it’s pretty brutal. However, I feel that the top 16 from the previous era was better. It’s no surprise players like that are still doing so well. As long as the hunger is still there and they’re going down to the club to practise, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be successful.”
You’ve struggled with some back and neck problems in recent years. How are you currently feeling?
“I still get lots of massages and do stretches to help. It is a fairly serious spinal injury which gets worse and worse. It’s really just a case of trying to manage things. I’ve had to change my stance and technique as well as my practice routine accordingly. I find it hard to accept that my game can’t really be as good as it used to be. However, I just take each game as a bonus now.”