Snooker: Hendry hangs on to hopes

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN HENDRY remained on the road to glory in Preston last night - but only after coming close to being on the way home.

The Scot, bidding to lift his first trophy in seven months, safely reached the last 16 of the Grand Prix tournament with a 5-3 victory over the Essex player, Brian Morgan.

But, when Morgan, the world No 27, recovered from a 3-1 deficit to draw level at 3-3, Hendry was in serious danger of adding his name to the long list of big names whose only interest in the tournament is now as a television viewer.

Breaks of 44, 60 and a last red-to-pink clearance in frame four gave Hendry a 3-1 advantage at the mid-session interval. A runaway win looked on the cards. But Morgan clawed his way back into contention and, after Hendry had hit the jaws of the pocket with a straightforward pink when poised to seize a 4-2 lead, the underdog was able to draw level.

A composed 71 break enabled Hendry to regain the lead and, again rising to the challenge, he knocked in a red from distance followed by a risky pink to launch a match-clinching effort of 75 in the eighth frame.

"To do that when it mattered most was very pleasing," Hendry said. "At 3-3 I was in a bit of trouble, and suddenly Brian was favourite.

"The ability to close out the last frame of a match in one visit was a key element missing from my game for much of last season," he added.

Hendry, going for his 30th world-ranking event title, and his first since the Thailand Masters in March, goes forward to tackle Dave Harold, who whitewashed Pakistan's Shokat Ali 5-0 yesterday afternoon.

"In my opinion Dave deserves to be in the top 16 - I rate him," declared Hendry, one of only three seeded players still left with the chance to secure the pounds 60,000 first prize.

"Because so many of the top players are already out it's a strange situation," he added. "You've got to guard against letting yourself look at the draw and think you're in the final. Everybody deserves respect."

Jamie Burnett will face an all-Scottish quarter-final against Chris Small after beating Gary Wilkinson 5-0. The 23-year-old from Hamilton was put under no pressure by a woefully out-of- touch rival, whose break of 16 in the first frame was his best of a scrappy match.