Snooker: Stevens thrilled by first ranking title after nine years

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The Independent Online

Matthew Stevens finally ended the blackest spell of his career by winning the UK Championship in York on Sunday night. The Welshman denied Stephen Hendry a record-equalling sixth UK crown with a thrilling 10-8 win before a packed Barbican Centre crowd.

It was his first ranking title nine years into a professional career that promised much but until last night remained unfulfilled. "If I don't win another one, they won't be able to take my name off the trophy," said Stevens, who is set to become a father for the first time over Christmas. "It is the second-biggest ranking tournament and I am proud to have won it."

The 26-year-old world No 9 from Carmarthen admits he "went off the rails" after his father died in February 2001.

"Snooker didn't mean anything to me," said Stevens, who had to battle back from 4-0 and 7-5 down to take the title. "I would just turn up and play. It was hard, though, watching the other players getting the glory even though they deserved it.

"Now, I am just enjoying the game and I am putting it into perspective. This win is the icing on the cake, and with the baby on the way we are going to have a fantastic Christmas."