Hendry's escape

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The Independent Online
Stephen Hendry, six times world champion and world No 1 for the whole of the 90s, will play Ronnie O'Sullivan, who is emerging as the greatest threat to his dominance, for the pounds 30,000 first prize in the Liverpool Victoria Charity Challenge at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham, today.

Hendry, who has lost seven times to Alan McManus, had to make a 102 break in the deciding frame to take a 6-5 victory and inflict a 13th defeat on his fellow Scot. McManus, who had recovered from two down with three to play to beat Scotland's world No 2, John Higgins, in the quarter-finals, usually plays to his best standards against Hendry and did so last night as frame-clinching breaks of 102, 51 and 68 put him 3-1 ahead.

Hendry's response was consecutive centuries, 113 and 139, and almost the fourth hat-trick of his career before a tricky red stopped him on 86. McManus dug in to take the eighth as 31 and 55 brought him level at 4-4, fell behind to Hendry's 94, but managed to snatch the 10th on the black with a 44 clearance to level 5-5.

Hendry had missed a long red, in effect match ball, to offer McManus this reprieve, but, as if nothing particular had happened, calmly rolled in a long initial red and made a 102 from it to secure his 6-5 win.

The 21-year-old O'Sullivan, winner of two of the season's first four ranking events, the Asian Classic and the German Open, carried his defence of this title into the final with a 6-1 win over an off-colour Peter Ebdon.

Despite O'Sullivan's initial 65 break, Ebdon eventually stole the opening frame on the black with a 30 clearance, but remarkably this remained the world No 3's highest break of the day as O'Sullivan's minimally troubled progress was marked by runs of 49, 44, 64 and 61.

Having made a century when he was 10 and a 147 maximum in competition at 15, O'Sullivan has always had the talent to be world No 1. Now, without writing any premature obituaries for Hendry, he has the mental approach to make the best of it.