Snooker: Hendry's relief at finding room with a cue

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STEPHEN HENDRY has made more centuries than any other snooker player in history - more than 400 - but his biggest break has occurred away from the table. Thieves broke into his hotel room on Tuesday night and left his most precious possession behind.

Hendry, in Sheffield where he reached the semi-final of the World Championship last night with a 13-5 win over Matthew Stevens, returned to his hotel to discover hundreds of pounds worth of clothes and shoes had been stolen but the burglars, perhaps deliberately, had left untouched his cue and dress suit, which were lying on the bed.

To quantify his relief, albeit tempered by the loss of personal items, you must understand a cue is worth far more than the cost of the wood and the materials. Players cherish their cue like their arms and prefer to stick with the same one throughout their career.

Hendry has won six world titles with his and the chance of his becoming the first modern player to claim a seventh would have disappeared if it had been lost. Alain Robidoux was a world semi-finalist two years ago but has barely won a match since his cue was stolen in 1997 and has sunk this season from No 12 to No 37 in the rankings.

Police used a helicopter to search for the thieves but they got away with a leather jacket, a video recorder and other items. Hendry has refused to put a value on the cue even though a pounds 10,000 reward was paid when it was stolen during a tournament in 1990.

"Stephen was at the Crucible watching the snooker," Hendry's manager, Ian Doyle, said. "When he got back to the room and opened the door he realised immediately something was wrong. The police say it was sheer chance the room they broke into was Stephen's. He's not moving hotels, but he's changed rooms."

The defending champion, John Higgins, the world No 3 Ronnie O'Sullivan and the 1991 champion, John Parrott, are just some of the players staying at the hotel. It is believed no other room was touched.