Snooker: Stevens lands first ranking title

Matthew Stevens ended his nine-year wait for his first ranking tournament title in York tonight by beating Stephen Hendry 10-8 to become Travis Perkins UK champion.

It was a superb performance by the 26-year-old Welshman who fought back from 4-0 and 7-5 down against the seven times world champion.

Hendry though played a part in his own downfall, making some uncharacteristic errors as the match drew to a conclusion.

But he would not begrudge Stevens his moment in the spotlight after two previous UK final defeats and a 2000 world championship final beating by countryman Mark Williams.

And it was an emotional night for the Carmarthen cueman, whose career has been in the doldrums since his father, Morrell, died in February 2001.

However, he has made a conscious effort to put the bad memories behind him this season. And after some promising results in the first two events of the season, including a semi-final defeat to Hendry in the British Open, he has finally come of age.

Stevens collected the winner's cheque for £84,500. Hendry, so close to equalling Steve Davis' record of six UK crowns, collected £43,000.

It was a real rollercoaster of a match with Hendry 4-0 ahead in just over an hour thanks to breaks of 68, 100, 48 and 65. Back came Stevens with a nap hand, including a 137 clearance, as Hendry accumulated only 13 points in the final four frames of the afternoon.

Stevens' five-frame winning run came to an end immediately the match resumed.

Breaks of 40 and 67 enabled the Scot to obtain parity and he turned the screw by taking the next two frames for good measure.

Indeed, it was almost a carbon copy of his start to the match. In three frames Stevens accumulated just 11 points as his opponent added runs of 93 and 101 - his eighth century of the contest.

Hendry again looked well capable of imposing himself on the match. But the final was to take yet another twist.

Stevens made 61 off a missed Hendry opportunity to pull a frame back before the players disappeared for their final interval.

On 61 he missed a routine black to leave Stevens requiring a snooker. The underdog bit back and cleared with 33 for a black ball success.

In frame 15, Stevens took the lead for only the second time in a tension-filled contest. A poor safety shot was Hendry's final undoing on this occasion giving his opponent the chance to pot the last two reds and make the frame safe.

It was nerve wracking stuff for Hendry's wife Mandy and son Blaine and Stevens' pregnant girlfriend Claire plus proud mum Sandra.

And the players were clearly under it as well - especially the normally ice cool Hendry. He missed a red leading 35-19 and then played a brave but costly pot on the final red when a safety shot was a better option.

Stevens capitalised with a 30 clearance to go two clear for the first time in the game. Hendry's response was emphatic.

Indeed, he added to the excitement by almost making a maximum 147 break for a £32,500 bonus. Hendry potted some fabulous balls to reach 120 from 15 reds and 15 blacks.

However, his thin cut attempt on the yellow brought the clearance to an end. The world number two from Auchterarder recovered from 8-6 down to knock out Ali Carter 9-8 in the last 16 but this time there was no reprieve.

The yellow proved Hendry's downfall again as he missed the two-pointer clearing up on a 54 break. He was then snookered on the same ball, made the escape but let in Stevens with a clearance from yellow to pink for the title.

Comments