Snooker: Majestic Hendry takes O'Sullivan's breath away

Stephen Hendry, trying to add a sixth UK title to go with his seven world and six Masters, produced one of his most majestic performances to dispatch Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-4 in the quarter-final of the UK Championship at the Barbican here and will play the world No 9, Matthew Stevens, for the £82,500 first prize today.

"Every one of the nine frames I won was in one visit,'' said Hendry of his awesomely consistent display of break-making. Runs of 68 and 113 quickly put him 2-0 up. Efforts of 85, 84, 66 and 71 carried him from 2-2 to 6-2 at the close of an afternoon session in which O'Sullivan appeared curiously flat with a 94 break in the third frame and a scrappy fourth his only successes.

Fired up for the evening session, O'Sullivan took only 16 minutes to halve his arrears with breaks of 138 and 85 but Hendry monopolised the rest with 74 and 53 and pounced on O'Sullivan's failure on 36 on a straight red in the 12th with a decisive reply of 65.

Prior to O'Sullivan's unexpected error he seemed likely to trail only 7-5 but at four down with five to play his hopes were minimal and Hendry polished him off with a run of 109.

Perhaps Hendry should send Christmas cards to the baggage handlers at Bangkok and Heathrow airport - whichever were responsible - for irreparably damaging in September the cue with which he had played his entire career. His former coach, Frank Callan, used to growl: "He's become the world's best player with the world's worst cue,'' but he would never have changed by choice.

With its sturdier replacement he stands on the brink of winning back-to-back ranking titles for the first time for four years, following his British Open success at Brighton earlier this month.

However, success cannot be taken for granted against Stevens for the 26-year-old Welshman is determined to be rid of the description as the best player never to have won a world-ranking title.

He has not been particularly convincing in any of his wins here, including his 9-7 defeat of Jimmy White in the semi-final but he may relax into something nearer his best form today.

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