Hendry made to battle for championship

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The Independent Online
Stephen Hendry achieved his first goal of the season by retaining his United Kingdom Championship at Preston's Guild Hall, winning on the final frame. Hendry, who had led John Higgins 8-4, came back from 9-8 down for a thrilling 10-9 victory in Sunday's final.

The win over his unlucky World Cup-winning team-mate put the Scot on course to emulate his clean sweep of the top three honours during 1995- 96. Had he won, the 21-year-old Higgins would have become the provisional world No 1, denying Hendry top spot for only the second time in six years.

"All this talk of who is No 1 is twaddle," Hendry said. "You can only call yourself No 1 after the World Championship at the end of the season. And that's where I aim to be. But John and I are the two best players in the game. We are stretching away from the rest."

Anything other than an easy win had looked unlikely when Hendry was poised to lead 9-4 after compiling his third century of the match in the 12th frame. But from 59-20 ahead, he conceded four points after swerving to escape from a snooker, giving Higgins the chance to clear and then win the re- spotted black that followed.

Higgins gained confidence, taking the next four frames, and at 9-8 threatened Hendry's 17-match unbeaten record. Undeterred, Hendry made breaks of 82 and 77 to claim the final two frames in just 18 minutes.

UK CHAMPIONSHIP Final (Preston): S Hendry (Sco) bt J Higgins (Sco) 10- 9. Frame scores (Hendry first): 32-72, 78-32, 105-14, 16-65, 80-28, 108- 8 (102 break), 115-14 (115 break), 36-70, 4-93, 73-4, 61-33, 108-0 (108 break), 59-66, 39-68, 32-96, 29-62, 12-62, 82-0, 77-0.

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