Snooker: Respect but no respite as Hendry takes on Stevens

Snooker
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The Independent Online
Stephen Hendry took nothing for granted yesterday when he lined up against Matthew Stevens, the lowest ranked of the UK Championship semi- finalists.

Hendry, in his own words, is close to reproducing his best form but refused to treat Stevens with disdain.

"We've only played once before and Matthew beat me 5-1 in the Grand Prix last season," the defending champion said after his 9-5 success over Alan McManus in the Preston tournament on Thursday.

"It's his second semi-final in a row, so he can certainly play a bit," Hendry said. "I know that if I drop my standards, he's well capable of getting through to the final."

Hendry maintained his standard to such an extent that he led 6-2 after the opening session, the 20-year-old Stevens getting a taste of his own medicine following his successive 9-1 victories over Mark Williams and Martin Dziewialtowski.

The Carmarthen player only prevented a possible whitewash by winning the last two frames of the session helped by breaks of 83 and 97.

And in order to avert a last-four disappointment for the second ranking tournament running, Stevens needed seven of the remaining nine frames.

That scenario looks unlikely against a player improving with every match and who is unbeaten since losing to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 1993 UK final.

However, Hendry needed to stay awake unlike a spectator during his match against McManus. Frame 10 was interrupted by a snoring fan for whom the comfy chairs and warmth inside the venue proved too much to resist.

One minute the mystery man was watching Hendry take a 6-3 lead, the next he was snoring soundly forcing the match to be halted for several minutes.

Both players and the Dutch referee Jan Verhaas broke down laughing. But McManus was clearly affected and missed his next shot. He was still grinning as Hendry eventually managed to take the frame on the pink to go 7-3 up.

"It wasn't a compliment to our snooker, that's for sure," Hendry said. "It was just one of those things that happen from time to time. Alan was clearly affected by what happened more than me."

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