Hendry's return

Snooker
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The Independent Online
John Parrott will be out for revenge when the Asian Classic stages its version of a Merseyside derby in Bangkok tomorrow.

He clashes with his fellow Liverpudlian Rod Lawler in the first round of the pounds 230,000 tournament - the player who ended his Embassy World Championship hopes in April at the first hurdle. Parrott, the defending Asian Classic champion, occupies a lofty position in the bookmakers' odds for the pounds 40,000 first prize, but, as usual, Stephen Hendry is a warm favourite for the title.

Although the Thai event is the first of 10 world-ranking tournaments to be staged during this season - and Hendry has not played competitively for almost four months - he will still be extremely tough to beat. He begins his sixth straight season as world No 1 against Stephen Lee, a qualifier from Trowbridge, and has been practising intensely for the past month to overcome any lack of match practice.

Despite completing a personal grand slam last season by winning the Regal Scottish Masters, Grand Prix, UK Championship and World Championship, Hendry still believes there is room for improvement: "I wasn't happy with my form and my consistency, particularly in the overseas competitions, and that's something I want to remedy."

Hendry's great rivals, Peter Ebdon, Steve Davis and Jimmy White, all fly to the Far East with a common objective: to bring an end to their own title famines.

With the exception of the Rothman's Malta Grand Prix, a minor invitation event, Ebdon did not lift a trophy last season.Davis has not won a tournament since the Regal Welsh Open of January 1995, while White will be seeking his first success since the 1993 Matchroom League.

Ebdon's first-round opponent in Bangkok will be Neal Foulds, White meets Brian Morgan, and Davis takes on Stephen Murphy or Thai wild-card entry Sakchai Sim Ngam, the world amateur champion.

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