Snooker: Hendry out of black hole

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The Independent Online
Stephen Hendry stared defeat in the face as he recovered from three down with four to play to beat Anthony Hamilton 9-8 to reach the quarter-finals of the Liverpool Victoria UK Championship at Preston Guild Hall.

Hamilton had his 8-5 lead reduced to 8-7, largely through Hendry's breaks of 54 and 79, but scored first with 68 in the following frame. A tricky red to a middle pocket, which would have left the world No 1 needing a snooker, eluded him and he had to watch Hendry head towards a frame-winning clearance. Hendry's effort reached 62 but the decisive black stayed out.

Hamilton then made two attempts at would have been the match-winning black, the second much easier than the first, but it was Hendry at his third attempt at the final colour, who levelled at 8-8.

"It was dead straight and I got a huge kick on it but that's snooker," said Hamilton of his last chance. "I honestly thought I'd won it so when it went 8-8 I knew I'd gone in my head."

So it proved as Hendry took a 50-0 lead in the decider before clinching victory with a run of 39.

"I felt more nervous tonight than I ever have," said Hamilton who had begun the afternoon with a break of 129 on his way to a 4-1 lead which Hendry negated at 4-4 at the interval.

Hendry scored first in the evening session with 43 but let Hamilton in for an 82 clearance. Hamilton, the No 14 seed, pressed on to 7-4 as Hendry began to flounder.

When Hamilton's break of 78 put him three up with four to play at 8-5, it did not appear that Hendry had the form on the day to deny him his first ever place in a world ranking quarter-final. But, in the last couple of seasons, Hendry has become more adept at winning when playing well below his best.

"Stephen's the greatest player in the world and even to beat him once you'll remember on your deathbed," said Hamilton.

"Anthony had two or three good chances to win the match. It was there for the taking but he didn't do it," said Hendry. "I could see his arm was tightening up a bit towards the end. Obviously it wasn't the kind of performance people expect to see from me. They're expecting the big breaks and me running all over my opponent. I'm hitting the balls well, as well as at any stage in my career but my concentration is nowhere to be seen."

At least until his back was pressed hard against the wall.

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