The Sheriff of Pottingham reflects on his German Masters triumph, improved mental strength and Alfie Burden’s cooking skills…
Hamilton beat Ali Carter 9-6 in the 2017 German Masters final
Firstly Anthony how do you reflect on last season, was it the best of your career so far?
It wasn’t the most consistent, but given that I won my first title and won more money than I had done before, yes it has to be my best season. It was pretty good before I went to Berlin, and then obviously winning there was an amazing experience.
You’ve had a few months for that victory to sink in now – to what extend is it still on your mind?
I suppose the memories are starting to fade slightly, which I don’t want to happen. I’ll always be able to look back on it to glean confidence because of what I accomplished. And it’s easy to remember the venue because it’s such a special place. I’m just happy that I won my first one in Germany as I have always loved going there, we get treated so well by the fans. I’m a massive fan of European snooker, it’s the next big thing.
How much difference has that one ranking title made to your career overall? Presumably finishing your career without one would have been a big disappointment.
It makes a difference, but I’m still not overly proud of my career. I’m a slow learner and it took me a long time to realise that what’s going on upstairs is more important than what you’re doing on the practice table. I used to be a great player in practice but I didn’t take that ethos into matches so all that time spent working was worthless. I always used to enjoy practice because I was good at it, and just to enjoy your job is as lucky as winning the lottery. But it was only when I changed my attitude that I started winning matches again, despite that fact that I’m rubbish in practice now.
How did you make that change on the mental side?
I spoke to Terry Griffiths about it about ten years ago and it made a lot of sense, although I didn’t really put that into practice until more recently. It’s about staying in the moment, which sounds simple but it really does work. It doesn’t come easily and you have to practise it just as much as playing snooker. Believe me when I say that every sportsman on the planet has times when he wants to smash the place up with his cue, racket or whatever because he’s so frustrated. It takes a lot of work to learn how to deal with those feelings.
Hamilton won Performance of the Year at the recent World Snooker Awards
Do you wish you had learned that earlier in your career? In the same way that Ronnie O’Sullivan might have won more if he had met Steve Peters ten years earlier?
It’s very hard to tell. Yes Ronnie might have won more if he had met Steve when he was 25, but he has done pretty well anyway hasn’t he! No one has got more bottle. I used to practise with him and his dedication and work ethic was crazy. He was also always very humble and down to Earth in the club.
What are your targets for this season?
Just to keep the right attitude when I’m playing and drive down the motorway after each match with no regrets. If I do that then I will win matches. And to enjoy snooker and stay healthy. I would love to get to one more final, if I do that I can retire happy. Even when I was losing the final in Berlin I was enjoying the buzz and thinking ‘ I hope I get to another one of these.’ As you get older you can feel flat sometimes and you need the big occasion to get you going.
You’re 25th in the world rankings and – with no money coming off – you have a chance of the top 16. Is that a target?
I don’t look at the rankings. It would be nice to get in the top 16 of course but I wouldn’t take it seriously. All the players know who the top 16 should be and I’m not one of them. I should be about 40th.
You won over £140,000 last season, does that take pressure off you on the financial side?
Yes, though it might also take an edge off my game. Being skint gave me an extra 5-10% because I needed to win. But hopefully I can gain that 5-10% back through being more relaxed. If you can just play snooker and enjoy it then that can help. It’s nice to be able to pay my hotel bill and not be looking at the card reader hoping it goes through. I’m trying to keep a reasonably healthy diet so I’m glad I can order a side portion of vegetables without looking how much it is.
What kind of diet do you follow?
I’m just trying to eat well and avoid too much of the kind of food you usually get in snooker clubs. Alfie Burden and I actually cook our own food at our club in Whetstone. Just things like fish, vegetables and rice. Alfie thinks he’s a great cook, he takes pictures of what he has made and sends them to me, as if he has just invented a new dish. To be fair he does a good lasagne and chicken pie and he makes smoothies. He cooks for his kids so they must eat well.
What have you done with the money you won last season?
It went straight in the bank. I thought about buying a car but I’m not a good enough player to have a flash car so I stuck with the old one. I’ve got a holiday in Barcelona coming up with a few friends which will be great. And I might buy a few little things. But who knows how much longer I’ll be playing snooker for so I‘m careful with money.
What do you think you will do when you finish playing snooker?
I’ve done a little bit of coaching at the club with a few members and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. So I want to do more of that, with anyone from juniors to professionals. I practise with Alife and Aditya Mehta and occasionally give them little pointers because I’ve always been quite technical. In every sport the players want coaches who have played at a high level. That’s why Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker are among the best tennis coaches, and Terry is one of the best in snooker. He hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to play under pressure and how hard the game can be. I enjoy trying to help other players.
German Masters pictures by Oliver Behrendt / Contrast Photo