Snooker: Crucible saga pits genius of O'Sullivan against king Hendry

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Drama is the Crucible's stock in trade and the Sheffield theatre will today play host to Act V of a World Championship saga between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Hendry in this year's semi-finals after those titans of the game both progressed to the last four yesterday, and a fifth Crucible meeting.

O'Sullivan, the most naturally gifted player the sport has known and twice a champion, in 2001 and 2004, made it to the last four after seeing off the challenge of Liang Wenbo, the 21-year-old Chinese upstart whose all-attack style has thrilled audiences since his first-round demolition of Ken Doherty. O'Sullivan prevailed 13-7 last night.

Hendry is the undisputed king of the big-stage baize, with a record seven world titles already to his name. He kept himself on course for an unlikely eighth at the age of 39 by completing a 13-7 quarter-final win yesterday over Ryan Day.

The winner of their duel will be the favourite for the title in a final against either Ali Carter or Joe Perry. That pair meet in the other semi, which also starts today. Carter, 28, from Essex, beat Peter Ebdon 13-9 yesterday, while journeyman Perry, 33, won a to-the-wire battle with Maguire, 13-12, that finished at 11.28pm.

The last time Hendry progressed so far, in 2004, he played Sullivan and lost 17-4, which remains the biggest margin of defeat in any Crucible semi-final.

"Ronnie is the best player in the world at the moment, right-handed, left-handed, one-legged, one-armed, whatever you want," said Hendry. "He's a genius. I've got the game capable of beating him, but I need to bring my best game out."

O'Sullivan said: "It's good to be in the semi-final against a fantastic player." This year's semi-final will be Hendry's 12th, a record that eclipses Steve Davis's 11, and keeps him in contention for a 10th final (he lost in 1997 and 2002) and a first title since 1999.

Aside from the 2004 semi-final, which O'Sullivan used as a springboard to win the second of his own two titles to date, Hendry and the Rocket have met at the Crucible on three other occasions. Hendry won all three, 17-14 in the 2002 semi-final before losing the final to Ebdon; 17-13 in 1999 before beating Mark Williams in the final; and 13-8 in the 1995 quarters before beating Nigel Bond in the final.

Comments