Snooker: Stephen Hendry starts poorly at World Championship quarter final against Stephen Maguire
STEPHEN Hendry was out of sorts and lost the opening four frames of his Betfred.com World Championship quarter-final against Stephen Maguire this morning.
After resounding wins over Stuart Bingham and last year's champion John Higgins, there was growing support for Hendry to land an eighth Crucible title, 13 years after his seventh.
But the 43-year-old struggled badly as his best-of-25-frames tussle with fellow Scot Maguire began, and knew he would have to improve drastically after the interval.
Maguire did not have to find peak form, and instead simply picked at the scraps Hendry was repeatedly leaving for him.
He had a handy break of 41 in the second frame and a slick 68 to move 4-0 in front.
The key early moment in the match came at the business end of frame three, when Hendry looked for all the world like he would clear the table.
On a break that had taken him to 52-52, he left himself a straightforward pink. It was slightly off straight but certainly not difficult, and yet Hendry missed it wretchedly, with Maguire again feasting on the leftovers.
Hendry immediately left the arena with a baffled face, but after composing himself could only watch Maguire make a frame-winning run to move further ahead, with a further four frames to come in the session.
The standard was much higher on the other table where the Welsh pair of Ryan Day and Matthew Stevens, good friends off the table, brought the best out of each other and shared the opening four frames equally.
Stevens had a break of 86 to set the tone, and Day responded with century runs of 100 and 110 to edge ahead impressively.
Day, 32, is contesting his third World Championship quarter-final, having lost his first two, while 34-year-old Stevens is chasing a third appearance in the final, and his first title in Sheffield.
It might have been 3-1 to Day at the interval but he spurned opportunities in frame four and a run of 49 from Stevens made it safe.