STUART BINGHAM says it felt good to be a genuine contender for top titles again - despite two final-stage defeats during a grueling schedule in Asia last month.

After being pipped to the Six Reds crown by in-form Ding Junhui in a final at the start of the month, Ballrun lost a thrilling semi-final 6-5 to world No 1 Mark Selby at the Shanghai Masters at the end of September.

Bingham then had to immediately fly back to the UK for two sets of qualifiers in Preston, but has now had time to reflect on his near misses in Thailand and China.

He said: "It is a bit like pulling teeth against Mark, but it was another one that just got away.

"I was gutted to come up a little bit short - especially after the close defeat to Ding at the Six Reds - but I took the positives away.

"And it is nice to just be back in the later stages of the tournaments again.

"Even though I got to the final of the Grand Prix, it has felt like I had a bit of a year out from all the top end stuff.

"And if someone before those two tournaments would have said you can make a final and a semi, then I would have taken that."

Once back in the UK, Bingham had to head straight for the Preston Guild Hall for qualifiers for the European Masters and for the International Championship.

Bingham beat Craig Steadman 4-0 but a 4-3 defeat to Scott Donaldson in the second round means the Basildon pro did not book his place at the European Masters and is instead watching the action from Romania on TV at home this week.

But a 6-2 victory over Peter Lines means the world No 2 has secured his place at the International Championship in China between October 23-30.

The packed September schedule meant Bingham had very little time to recuperate and he admits it may have taken its toll.

Bingham said: "I try to give my everything in every tournament but I did feel I'd perhaps run out of gas a bit when I lost to Scott.

"It does make you think about what Ronnie O'Sullivan has done with his picking and choosing about what to play in.

"I'm not sure what they could do about it because you do get weeks off in June and July but then it does get very busy from the end of August.

"But I know venues have to be booked and it must be complicated to schedule everything so I guess it is just one of those things."

Bingham is next in action at the English Open at Event City in Manchester (October 10-16) and he will begin on Monday, October 10, at 7pm against world No 25 Robert Milkins, who came through the ranks around the same time as Bingham 20 years ago.

Ballrun said: "It's a new event but another best-of-seven, which I am not a massive fan of. It would be nice to perhaps do a best-of-nine, otherwise it becomes a bit of a lottery.

"It will be a tough match against Robert but I am looking forward to playing in a new venue for me, and hopefully I can carry some good form forward."

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