Snooker: Hendry sees off Stevens to reach eighth UK final

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The Independent Online
Stephen Hendry last night smoothly secured a place in the final of the Liverpool Victoria UK championship for the eighth time in his remarkable career.

The world No 1, chasing his sixth UK crown, beat Matthew Stevens 9-5 after breaking the Welshman's challenge by taking the opening session 6-2 in their entertaining semi-final at Preston's Guild Hall.

Following his successive 9-1 victories over Mark Williams and Martin Dziewialtowski, Stevens, a 20-year-old from Carmarthen, was given a taste of his own medicine. At one stage he was facing a whitewash, as Hendry reeled off the first six frames, but Stevens fought back by winning the last two frames of the session helped by breaks of 83 and 97.

When he also won the opening two frames of the evening session, sweeping through the second of those by a 101-0 margin, it began to look as if he might be able to turn the match round and avoid losing at the semi- final stage for the second ranking tournament running.

However, Hendry, who has been improving with every match and is unbeaten since losing to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 1993 UK final, steadied the ship in the 11th frame, taking it 77-14. Stephens took the next, but, as te pressure mounted, it was the greater experience of Hendry that saw him through.

Had Hendry achieved the 400th century break of his career in the opening session, then the defending champion might easily have gone on to win all eight frames. He should have reached his personal milestone in frame five after compiling a run of 96. Instead he ran out of position after potting the 13th red.

It was the second time during a session lasting just under two hours that Hendry had missed an opportunity to reach three figures. Earlier, he made 81 before missing the penultimate red in frame two. But it was the second failure that appeared to pray on Hendry's mind.

He went 6-0 ahead of the world No 53 by potting brown to black after Stevens had snookered himself on the brown. But in the closing two frames further errors crept into Hendry's game, giving Stevens a sight of salvation, which ultimately proved a mirage.

O'Sullivan and Stephen Lee, the world no 16, meet in the second semi- final today.

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