Bond finds Hendry in premium form again

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The Independent Online
Ask a snooker player what he fears most and the No 1 answer would be snapping his cue. Not far down the list, however, would be meeting Stephen Hendry at The Crucible. The man is dangerous anywhere but here he would make the non-heel bits of Achilles look vulnerable.

It is 23 matches and five years since the Scot was beaten here and yesterday he made it look likely that he would push that first figure to 24 by taking a 10-4 lead in the semi-finals of the Embassy World Championship. His opponent, Nigel Bond, might make a comeback; Margaret Thatcher might become leader of the Labour Party.

Hendry, himself, admits he has been below his best so far but the five- times champion off colour would look like the picture of health in anyone else and even before he began his match with Bond he had being playing so badly he had recorded eight centuries. As the record for the whole tournament is 12 (held by Hendry) you can gauge the depths he had plumbed.

Bond has more reason than most to count the scars because he has been beaten by Hendry in the last three championships, twice in the quarter- finals and last year in the final. Yesterday he had the misfortune to run into him just when he found his ruthless streak for the first time.

Only seven frames were played yesterday, which was an act of kindness on the scheduler's part because Bond had the look of a man who had taken too much punishment by the end. Hendry took six of the seven and the wonder was how he managed to miss out on the other.

The first frame set the tone - Bond missing a black, Hendry knocking off a quick 77 - but it was the third that inflicted the sort of reverse that shatters a player's confidence. Bondled 62-0 with a break of 61 and appeared to have arrested a flow that had seen his opponent go from 3-1 down to 6-3 ahead.

Another black rattling in the jaws of a corner pocket let Hendry in, however, and it was cruel to watch as he cleared the table to take the frame with a break of 64. Any hope Bond had of reining Hendry in vanished with breaks of 76 and 71 in the final two frames.

The other semi-final is delicately poised. Peter Ebdon opened an 11-7 lead at one point but a sequence of 139, 103, 94 and 66 from Ronnie O'Sullivan levelled the match at 11-11.

n Imperial Tobacco, who have sponsored the World Snooker Championship through their Embassy brand since 1976, have agreed to back the event until the year 2000. Thedeal guarantees prize money of more than pounds 5.4m.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield) Semi-finals (Best of 31 frames): S Hendry (Sco) leads N Bond (Eng) 10-4; R O'Sullivan (Eng) level with P Ebdon (Eng) at 11-11.

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