Snooker: O'Sullivan faces Dott after rout of Hendry

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan's 17-4 Embassy World Championship semi-final demolition of Stephen Hendry, relentless in execution for all its fluidity and grace, fully expressed the genius of an authentic superstar.

Ronnie O'Sullivan's 17-4 Embassy World Championship semi-final demolition of Stephen Hendry, relentless in execution for all its fluidity and grace, fully expressed the genius of an authentic superstar.

"You've got to sit there and admire the way he plays,'' said Hendry, who in 19 visits to the Crucible has won seven titles, reached two other finals and never suffered anything remotely approaching such a trouncing. "It's not as if I've played hideously badly, just that I didn't get into the match quickly enough and he ran all over me.''

O'Sullivan, the 2001 champion, led 13-3 before winning four of yesterday's five frames to guarantee not only his place in the final but the No 1 place in the end-of-season rankings. His catalogue of breaks included two centuries, 127 and 117, and nine more over 60, several from no more than half-chances.

Neither were there any of the histrionic gestures which attracted criticism in his early matches here. The influence of his new mentor, Ray Reardon, six times world champion in the 1970s and a byword for professional behaviour, is discernible there. "His input has been important,'' O'Sullivan acknowledged.

O'Sullivan's 71 took yesterday's opening frame before a rare error allowed Hendry to post one in consolation with a 75 clearance. O'Sullivan's 93 at 15-4 and 79 a frame later left a Birmingham punter who had displayed the foresight to invest £10,000 at 3-1 before the tournament confidently expecting a payout, as do Ladbrokes, who quote O'Sullivan at 1-7 for the title.

While Hendry will never again dominate the sport as he did in the Nineties, the world rankings due out on Tuesday will still have him third, behind only O'Sullivan and Mark Williams. "It's not like all of a sudden I've gone,'' said the 35-year-old. "I lost to the better player over three days.''

Graeme Dott, a 200-1 pre-tournament outsider, qualified to oppose O'Sullivan for the title with a tense 17-15 win over Matthew Stevens - now three times a losing semi-finalist in four years. "For his first time in the semi-finals here, Graeme handled himself brilliantly," said Stevens generously.

Gritty and determined, Dott always managed to respond when the more fluent Stevens put him under pressure. The unheralded Scot wonthree of the first four frames yesterday - a break of 111 from Stevens providing the exception - to lead 15-12.

When Stevens recovered to 15-15, the Welshman looked favourite, but Dott held on to his 47-0 lead in the next frame. Stevens, first in with 45, looked set to take the contest the full distance but lost position for the blue with the balls wide open.

Dott replied with 51 and ultimately resolved a lengthy safety duel on the blue by laying a snooker which created the chance for him to pot blue and pink for victory.

"I've tried to make myself play as if it means nothing when it means everything," said Dott.

"The worst that can happen to me is that I lose 18-0 and walk away with £125,000. I'll try my hardest but how do you stop a machine? If Ronnie can beat Anthony Hamilton 13-3 and Stephen 17-4 what chance have I got?"

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