Hendry shakes off sluggish start to edge Lee

Stephen Hendry made a winning start to his defence of the Champions Cup in Brighton yesterday - but only just. The seven-times world champion was pushed to the wire by Stephen Lee before emerging a 5-4 victor in the opening match.

Stephen Hendry made a winning start to his defence of the Champions Cup in Brighton yesterday - but only just. The seven-times world champion was pushed to the wire by Stephen Lee before emerging a 5-4 victor in the opening match.

Hendry, down to No 3 in the rankings, no longer dominates the sport as he used to. And the 31-year-old Scot feels the days when one player had a monopoly on the major prizes are over.

"You never know, but I wouldn't expect a Tiger Woods of snooker to come along and not miss a ball," he said. "The chances of that happening are pretty slim. There are seven or eight players now who have a chance of winning at every event. In the past I could take it for granted that I would win three or four titles a season. But I can't do that now.

"There is little or no chance to re-charge the batteries in snooker whereas Tiger Woods can take a few weeks off. It might be better if we were allowed to play in say eight out of 10 events but the sponsors wouldn't stand for it.

Hendry made a sluggish start and dropped the opening two frames to the world No 5 from Trowbridge. He then reeled off four without reply including back-to-back half-centuries to lead 4-2. Lee, runner-up in the China and Welsh Opens last season, rallied to level at 4-4 with a break of 92. But Hendry knocked in 53 to secure victory. He plays Ken Doherty tomorrow.

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