Snooker: Hendry given the fright of his life

The reigning world snooker champion, Stephen Hendry, was taken to the very precipice of defeat by his 29th-seeded opponent in the world championship at the Crucible here last night.

In the best of 19-frames first round, the man who has dominated this championship in this decade only secured his victory in the 18th frame as he closed out his gallant opponent, Jason Ferguson, 10-8. It was an almighty fright for Hendry and the epic struggle gripped a packed Crucible on a night when predictability is the usual order.

"If I had lost today it would have been a disaster for me," Hendry said afterwards. "Jason punished every mistake. I don't normally feel vulnerable at this venue, but I was today." Ferguson was "devastated". "I felt I let it slip tonight," he added. "But then Stephen played like a true champion and I cannot take anything away from him."

The prospect of Hendry's demise echoed the first-round defeats Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor had suffered as champions in the Eighties. But an exit for Hendry, who has won all bar one world championship in the Nineties, would have registered an even larger seismic shock.

Stung, no doubt, by the ease with which the other favourites had brushed aside their lesser-rated opponents in the day's sessions - Tony Drago, Peter Ebdon, Dave Harold and Ronnie O'Sullivan all slept on comfortable overnight leads - Hendry struck back quickly at the start of the evening session to recover from the shocking 6-3 deficit at the end of the morning session, taking frames 10 and 11, the latter with a break of 106.

His play at this point was alert and ruthless, as he occupied the table to demoralise his game opponent, trying to snuff out the flames of opposition. Ferguson's first scoring assault of the evening was cut short by a mistake on the black, and Hendry took full advantage to draw level at six frames apiece.

Two solid breaks in the 13th frame gave Hendry his fourth on the trot, taking him into the lead for the first time, a fair measure of the difficulty Ferguson had caused him. Ferguson emphasised this by taking his first frame of the night to draw level at 7-7. But when Hendry took the 15th, Ferguson won the 16th and drew level at 8-8.

The presence in Sheffield of a weekend conference on UFO sightings had alerted us to the possibility of unusual events, but a Hendry defeat at the Crucible seemed to rank on a par with Elvis Presley being discovered alive on the moon.

Nothing in Ferguson's career had prepared us for the boldness of his initial surge. Without a tournament win in his professional career and with six first- round exits this year, Ferguson was quoted at 500-1 to win the championship, while Hendry was offered at odds-on before a ball had been cued in anger.

However, Hendry's error-strewn morning had generated all sorts of planetary activity. His form in this nine-frame session had the Crucible buzzing with a mixture of dread for the champion's security, and enthusiasm for the underdog's resistence. Indeed after one break, with Ferguson 5-2 ahead, Hendry had returned to the auditorium to be greeted by an ominous silence of the sort that Greg Norman now knows all too well, while Ferguson drew genuine applause.

Ferguson took the first frame, conceded a century break (104) to Hendry in the second, then took the next two to establish his credentials. Hendry appeared to be back on course with his second century break (118) - he scored 12 in last year's finals - but the seventh frame, which lasted 33 minutes, had the champion sending out distress signals.

It was unlikely that the presence on the adjacent table of Steve James, the last man to beat him here in 1991, had any effect, but a distinct air of sloppiness crept into Hendry's play.

When Hendry missed a long red in the ninth, Ferguson stepped in calmly to compile an excellent break of 129, to leave him just four frames short of an astonishing victory.

During the afternoon theories abounded about Hendry's poor form, with speculation on his increasing reliance on the fear of defeat to kick-start him.

"He'll get it back tonight, just you wait and see," one sage said. He was right, but not by much.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin