Snooker: McManus arrives: Benson and Hedges Masters

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The Independent Online
ALAN McMANUS made it lucky seven in the Benson and Hedges Masters final at Wembley Conference Centre last night when he shed his reputation as a nearly man.

The Scot, beaten in six major finals and the semi-finals of 11 other leading tournaments during his four-year professional career, finally entered the winner's circle by edging out his compatriot, Stephen Hendry, 9-8 in an exciting final.

McManus, deflated only eight days ago after losing 9-6 to Steve Davis in the final of the Regal Welsh Open, collected a first prize of pounds 115,000 after ending Hendry's five-year, 23-match unbeaten record in the circuit's most prestigious invitation tournament.

When McManus made breaks of 83, 55 and a 31 clearance to pink in the third frame to establish a 3-0 lead, it was strikingly reminiscent of his strong start against Davis in the Welsh final. On that occasion, McManus led 4-0 before losing and he was again on the receiving end of a strong fightback as Hendry, finding his fluency, responded with runs of 37, 38, 115 - his first century of the event - and 67 to level at 3-3.

McManus, the world No 6, did win the closing frame of the afternoon to take a 4-3 advantage into the evening but his ascendancy was to be short-lived. An 80-break put Hendry back on equal terms at 4-4 and after McManus had temporarily regained the lead by winning frame nine, the world champion stole the 10th on the black for 5-5.

When Hendry scored additional breaks of 62 and 58 to move into a

7-5 lead he seemed to have killed off McManus's challenge. But the 23- year-old Glaswegian, keen to capture his first major title, turned the tide by winning the next two frames to force a 7-7 deadlock.

Again Hendry became favourite by regaining the lead at 8-7 but McManus forced a decider by prevailing in a nailbiting 16th frame. And when Hendry missed a plant at the start of the decider, McManus held his composure superbly to put together a decisive 76 break.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35