Saturday 19 August 2017

Snooker: End of era beckons for Hendry

Neil Goulding at the Crucible

Stephen Hendry, the seven-times world champion, avoided the ignominy of defeat with a session to spare at the World Championship.

But the sport's greatest player must climb a mountain to keep his hopes of a record eighth Crucible crown alive, having slipped within one frame of being knocked out at the last-16 stage by Mark Selby, the 2007 finalist.

Selby held a commanding 7-1 overnight lead and improved on that healthy advantage yesterday afternoon to lead 12-4 ahead of the pair's concluding session today. It left Selby virtually assured of a place in the quarter-finals.

Having made three century breaks in the opening session of the best-of-25 frame match, Selby continued to shine as he became the first player to make six century breaks in any match at the Crucible. And, ironically, Selby's sixth century saw the world No 3 equal Hendry's 16-year-old record of 53 centuries in a season.

Breaks of 100, 127 and 117 left Hendry facing an early exit, while a further run of 87 served to compound the damage.

The Scot was on course to lose with an unenviable session to spare as he slipped 10-2 down at the interval, but the world No 12 compiled breaks of 75 and 74 to win the first two frames following the resumption and will return today in what could to be his last-ever Crucible appearance. Win or lose the match, Hendry has threatened to retire at the end of the season.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the triple world champion, saw his four-frame overnight lead of 6-2 reduced to a 9-7 advantage over Shaun Murphy, the 2005 Crucible champion, in their last-16 showdown. The 'Rocket' was slow out of the blocks as Murphy reduced his arrears to just two frames with breaks of 44 and 51.

And Murphy should have got back to 6-5, only to miss a routine red on a break of 44 to allow O'Sullivan to clean up with a run of 76. O'Sullivan knocked in breaks of 95 and 59 to keep his nose in front, but Murphy dug deep and added further breaks of 55, 83 and 45 to leave all to play for today.

confident

Graeme Dott, last season's runner-up, is confident his extra Crucible experience will help him to overcome Judd Trump, the sport's rising star, in their eagerly anticipated quarter-final meeting tomorrow. A world champion in 2006, Glasgow's Dott clinched a battling 13-11 victory over Ali Carter, the 2008 runner-up, but the three-time finalist says he will have to be on his guard against his "fearless" 21-year-old opponent.

"There's no doubting he's a phenomenal talent. He goes for everything and pots everything," said Dott. "He's fearless, but he's got no battle scars. This is a really big match for him to get to, the one-table situation (in earlier rounds there are two tables in the arena), so he'll be under pressure." (© Independent News Service)

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