Small's big blow to Hendry

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SNOOKER Stephen Hendry flew back to Scotland last night wondering where his bid to win a fourth successive title went wrong. In a complete upset at the Newport Centre, Hendry's fellow Scot, Chris Small, overcame the odds to overwhelm the world champion 5-1 in the quarter-finals of the Regal Welsh Open.

It was the first defeat in 21 matches for the UK and European Open title-holder but he had no complaints. "I missed a black off its spot early on and from then on never really got going," he said. "Credit to Chris because he played well, though there's more to winning tournaments than beating just one person."

However, Small, who was a bank clerk before paying his dues to become a pro in 1991, thinks he can go on to lift the first ranking trophy of the year.

"That has got to be my best win ever," Small said. "If I play like that I can go all the way. I said before the match I could beat Stephen and I've backed up those words."

On this performance it was hard to tell who was ranked 86th in the world and who was top. Small, based in Leith, served notice of his intent with an opening-frame break of 59 and never looked back. He added a 67 clearance in the second frame from a 44-point deficit compiling 72 to go 3-0 clear.

Four months ago he held the same advantage at the Skoda Grand Prix, only for Hendry to come back to win 5-4 on the black.

This time there was no repeat. Small took the fourth frame 61-9 and his break of 41 in the sixth proved decisive.

"The other Scots always seem to raise their game against me. But I've got no complaints. I've just got to get on with the next tournament," Hendry said.

John Higgins defeated Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-4 in a memorable quarter-final clash. The 19-year-old Scot looked to have the match won when O'Sullivan 3-0, but O'Sullivan levelled at 3-3 and in the seventh he was on course to claim the £20,000 bonus for a televised 147 break after taking 10 reds and nine blacks. Instead he settled for a 73, leaving Higgins requiring two snookers.

Higgins managed that but O'Sullivan bounced back with a 75 to force the decider and opened with a 68 break in that Chigwell-based O'Sullivan struck first with a rapid 68 break but missed a vital red into the middle picket that would have again left Higgins needing snookers. Higgins then sank the remaining six reds and all the colours to win.

Results, sporting digest, page 47