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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London