Snooker: O'Sullivan closes on final as Hendry suffers mauling

Ronnie O'Sullivan produced a stunning display against Stephen Hendry to move to within four frames of reaching his second World Championship final here yesterday.

Ronnie O'Sullivan produced a stunning display against Stephen Hendry to move to within four frames of reaching his second World Championship final here yesterday.

O'Sullivan extended his overnight lead from 6-2 to 13-3 against the seven-time world champion. Hendry had been in grave danger of suffering his first-ever Crucible Theatre session whitewash until he won the final frame. But he will now have to win five of the eight frames this afternoon otherwise he will taste defeat with a session to spare at snooker's most famous venue for the first time.

Hendry is also under threat of experiencing his heaviest-ever defeat which currently stands at the 9-0 drubbing handed out to him by Marcus Campbell in the first round of the 1998 UK Championship. The Scot made some uncharacteristic errors, but almost every one was punished in devastating fashion by "The Rocket". O'Sullivan rattled in six breaks over 50 in the eight frames, including his 12th century of the tournament.

He notched up 630 points to Hendry's 138 during the two-hour blitz and on this form neither Graeme Dott nor Matthew Stevens will have much chance of preventing O'Sullivan from adding to his 2001 title triumph tomorrow and on Monday.

Ladbrokes make O'Sullivan 1-6 to win the best of 35-frame final while Hendry's odds have gone out to 40-1 after his battering. O'Sullivan's display will be particularly sweet given his bitter rivalry with Hendry and the fact he has never beaten him at Sheffield in three previous meetings. The 28-year-old from Chigwell was into his stride from the first ball and a deadly display won him the four frames before the mid-session interval in just 42 minutes. Hendry managed to score a combined total of just 15 points in that period while O'Sullivan rattled in breaks of 81, 92, 52 and 117. The domination continued after the break with O'Sullivan extending his lead to 13-2.

He had himself been whitewashed 8-0 in a session of his 1998 world semi-final with John Higgins. But Hendry at least avoided that indignity with a break of 44 to the final pink in the final frame.

The underdog, Dott, is still on course for a place in his first world final. He was due to head into last night's third of four sessions with Stevens holding a 9-7 advantage after sharing the eight frames in the morning. The Scot also registered the 50th century of this year's championships with a 117 in frame 11 giving him his first ton of the 2004 finals.

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