Anthony Hamilton celebrated his 51st birthday in style on Wednesday, winning his first Championship League group and he is loving the challenge on tour 31 years after turning professional.
The Sheriff of Pottingham won two and drew one match in Leicester to top his group, including a fine 3-1 win over Noppon Saengkham in the deciding match, making breaks of 130 and 114 in the first and last frames.
Hamilton is still playing through well-documented eye and back problems but in his fourth decade on the pro tour he has learned to deal with almost anything on the snooker table and is making the most of it.
‘I’ve nothing to say except I’m loving it!’ Hamilton told Metro.co.uk. ‘I’ve got another year on tour after thinking last year might be my last.
‘I’ve got a cue I like. My eyes are still shot, my back’s still shot, but I’m playing alright and I’m bang up for it!’
The Sheriff admits that he expected his cue to long be back in its case by now, thinking that playing past a 50th birthday was inconceivable when he was a regular in the top 16 around the turn of the millennium.
‘No, not at all,’ he said when asked if he thought he’d still be playing at 51. ‘When I was doing alright early doors I thought I’d retire when I was about 35.
‘The better you’re doing in the middle of your career you don’t really enjoy it, the pressure is on all the time and you don’t love it.
‘It’s the older you get that you realise what a great life it is, you just chill out, I think.’
It was a chilled out celebration for Hamilton in Leicester, as well, which is just fine for him at this point.
‘It was a nice way to celebrate. I had a Guinness or two in the hotel feeling very smug. You have to count these good days and that was a good day,’ he said.
‘There was no one else was there. But I’m 51 now, couple of Guinness and watch some Netflix, it’s like the best night of my life now.’
Along with the two tons against Noppon, Hamilton made four more 50+ breaks over the day and a change in outlook this season appears to be paying off quickly.
Having slipped perilously down the rankings last year, the Sheriff turned things around and starts this season at number 50 in the world and feels he has the freedom to return to a more attacking, aggressive style.
‘Funnily enough it was the best I’ve played for a good number of years, I suppose. It’s the best I’ve scored and the most proper snooker I’ve played for ages,’ he said.
‘Last year I was just poking the ball about like an amateur trying to get wins. This year I decided, now I’m at a safer, slightly better ranking, I can play a bit more expansive and try and bring my proper game out a bit more.
‘Sometimes when you’re down the rankings, fighting for your life you’re just trying to win matches. It’s tough to cue how you want to, it’s a gamble to try and play really well.
‘Against some players, I can semi guarantee at least a close match just by playing in a certain way. This season, I’ve thought sod that, let’s try and play some snooker for once.’
Hamilton winning his first ranking title at the German Masters in 2017 was a huge moment for him and an immensely popular victory in the snooker world.
Still very much capable of excellent results, he is targeting a return to another ranking final after loving the scenes as Joe Perry claimed the Welsh Open title last season at 47.
‘I’m going to try and play a bit more expansive, try and get on with it a bit more and try and nick another ranking final,’ said Anthony.
‘If it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen, but if it does it’s the biggest buzz you’ll ever have, so that’s my goal.
‘Go to bed the night before and not sleep a wink because I’m so nervous. Brilliant! Bring it on, it’s the best time of your life.
‘Like what Joe had in the Welsh last year, different class. His dad there, even if he’d have lost it was great. I was so happy for him. He can be happy for the rest of time for having that day in the sun.
‘That sort of experience one more time would be amazing.’
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