Snooker: Hendry holds his nerve to scramble through

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The Independent Online

Crucible legend Stephen Hendry considered retirement last night having been on the brink of arguably the biggest ever shock at the world championship. The seven-times world champion slipped 9-7 down to Zhang Anda, an unranked qualifier from China, in their first round clash in Sheffield, but the world No 10 clawed his way back to clinch a dramatic 10-9 final-frame victory and kept his hopes alive of a record eighth Crucible crown.

"At 9-7 down I had my retirement speeches ready, I felt the end," admitted Hendry. "I felt going out in the first round of the world championship would be an awful end to a dismal season. I'd probably have had to have a really serious think over the summer [about my future] because I've had a poor season. I'm struggling on and it's just frustrating not to produce the form which I showed in those last three frames.

"If I can produce that type of form during the season then I'm going to win tournaments. But I'm not, so that's why I'm not winning anything anymore.But from 9-7 something just clicked and I managed to hang in there for the win. It came just at the right time. It's my 25th year here at the Crucible. For some reason I seem to find something from somewhere, I've done that a lot of times here [at the Crucible] before. There's something in me which just smells blood. From then on I played fantastic, some really good stuff. As soon as I got back to 9-8 I thought there was only one winner as long as I got a couple of chances."

Hendry had led 4-0, but was pegged back to a slender 5-4 overnight lead the previous day as Anda, 18, won four of the next five frames. Anda who had to win four tough qualifying matches to reach his Crucible debut, then stunned the Scot by battling back from 7-5 down to lead 9-7.

But Hendry made his vast experience count and won the next frames under intense pressure to keep himself in this year's £1.1m tournament.

"I thought he [Zhang] was really phenomenal, he showed no nerves," added Hendry, who returned match breaks of 60, 73, 65, 89, 52 and 50 as he battled back to snatch victory.

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