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Snooker: Imperious Hendry on march: Holder warms to Crucible

A TOKEN to cling on to for the rest at the Embassy World Championships 12 months ago was Stephen Hendry short of his finest form. He still won, of course, but there was just a glimmer of hope in the early rounds. This time he is not offering even that hint of vulnerability.

In his first-round match he swept Danny Fowler aside 10-1 and last night opened a 6-2 lead over Darren Morgan. He requires only seven of today's 17 frames to reach the quarter- finals. Morgan, the 16th seed, looks in need of a near miracle.

A fortnight ago Hendry was fast approaching The Crucible without a tournament win to his name since he beat Jimmy White in the world championship final last May. His concentration, by his admission, was wayward and his safety play poor. Since then he has won the International Open, potting a record 10 centuries in the process, and showed ominous prowess here.

He came out of his corner last night with a break of 54, setting the sedentary theme for his opponent. Morgan won the second frame and then was rooted to his seat as the top seed added further breaks of 55, 84, 50 plus several 30s.

If Hendry had been having problems taking his practice form on to the tournament table, then Willie Thorne could empathise. It sums up the man that he has made 146 maximums in his career, a mammoth total, and has still to get beyond the quarter-finals here.

The opening session of his second- round match with the 1991 champion and No 2 seed, John Parrott, was a case in point. Thorne did not trail in the session and yet left The Crucible yesterday tied at 4-4. He had played well but another chance not been fully seized it seemed.

His management believe that only the lack of a win over one of the better players is holding him down from the heights which saw him win four tournaments in the 1980s.

Martin Clark took his opportunity slowly. He beat Karl Payne 10-6 but it was tortuous progress at times as the play was heavily laced with safety. By the end the audience was exhausted, never mind the players.