Carter won a Kreativ Dental Clinic European Tour event for the first time
Ali Carter described his Paul Hunter Classic title as the biggest victory of his career as he reflected on his triumph in Germany.
Just 16 months ago, Carter was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on his lung. He had already beaten testicular cancer, but inevitably questioned whether he could overcome the disease again – let alone get back to winning snooker tournaments.
With trademark tenacity he endured several cycles of chemotherapy. In August last year, Carter revealed that he was winning the fight. “When I play snooker again I’m going to try to win, but knocking a few balls around the table just doesn’t matter,” he said. Of course, when he did return to the circuit in November, winning started to matter again.
So to capture his first professional title since beating cancer not once but twice – and indeed his first trophy since the 2013 German Masters – was a huge landmark in Carter’s life.
“I’d definitely put it at the top of the list of my career wins, after what I have been through,” said the 36-year-old from Chelmsford, who beat Shaun Murphy 4-3 in the final in Fürth. “I knew my game was good enough to win titles again, but I didn’t know whether I could handle the mental side, and those two things are very different. So to make a 90-odd break in the last frame after Shaun had come back to 3-3 really proved to myself that I can still do it. It was such a special moment and to win the event named after Paul Hunter seems like fate.
“My oncologist, Professor Neville Davidson, admitted he is surprised at how quickly I have got back into competitive snooker, but he says I can crack on with it. A couple of weeks ago I had my first scan since Christmas and it was all clear so that was a boost. I am still having blood checks every month but hopefully everything is fine now.”
Carter, who won just six matches in events carrying ranking points last season, has drawn on the assistance of old friends in recent weeks in a bid to rediscover the winning formula. Coach Joe Lazarus and psychologist Steven Sylvester have both given him useful advice, but the crucial guidance came from former professional Brian Morgan. A former world under-21 champion and ranking event finalist, Morgan retired from snooker in 2007 and is now an airline pilot.
At the Crucible last season, Carter reached the last 16 before losing to Neil Robertson
“He’s a great bloke – a diamond,” said Carter. “I was talking to him in the club before I went to Germany and he gave me a few points to concentrate on which he wrote down on a piece of paper. I was able to just focus on that and let everything else take care of itself.”
The three-time ranking event winner, who has also reached the World Championship final twice, is now targeting a return to the top 16 on the ranking list. He had slipped into the low 20s though last Sunday’s victory bumped him back up to 25th.
“It is 100 per cent achievable to get back into the top 16 this season,” he said. “The European Tour events are the hardest ones to win for me because you have to play so many matches in quick succession. So I know now I can win ranking tournaments and that is the goal.”