SNOOKER: Momentous feat breaks Hendry's hold

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The Independent Online
What Stephen Hendry wants he tends to get. Four world titles for a start and enough prize-money to make a National Lottery winner envious. He had one ambition, however, and that was to make a maximum break on television, preferably at the game's spiritual home, The Crucible. Yesterday that dream was realised.

Even for a man who is better acquainted with perfection than most, it was a remarkable achievement. John Spencer, the former world champion and chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, described it as "the greatest frame of snooker I've ever seen in my life". You can run out of superlatives when you refer to this extraordinary 26 year old.

Only two players had achieved a 147 maximum at the Embassy World Snooker Championships before - Cliff Thorburn and Jimmy White - and neither had been at such a high-pressure stage as the semi-final. As he completed his clearance he thumped the air and White, his opponent, went over to shake his hand. Perhaps he hoped some of the magic might rub off on to himself.

The feat, for which Hendry wins £147,000 from the sponsors (unless lightning strikes twice and the prize is shared), was the greater for the unhelpful position of the balls. The clearance was launched by a long red but it could have broken down several times for want of getting in position, particularly when Hendry potted a red in mid-table and pushed the pink alongside the blue.

The best was reserved for the last, however. With his cue ball up against the bottom cushion, Hendry had to cut the black in off its spot. Another quarter of an inch, he estimated, and he would have been looking at an in-off and the angle was some 90 degrees from the direction the white ball was travelling. Did he do it? Is the cloth on a snooker table green?

"Just to win a frame of snooker with a shot like that the pressure would be enormous," Spencer said. "But to have to face that

he must have been in turmoil. It was a wonderful, wonderful shot."

The down side of a maximum break - if there can be one when you have just collected a small fortune - is that gaining that prize can divert the mind from the real abject: winning the match. Players react to achievement by involuntarily slumping and it is pertinent that neither Thorburn nor White won the World Championship after their 147s.

Winning that frame had given Hendry an 8-4 lead in the best-of-31 semi- final and at that time a computer-guided missile would have had more chance of missing its target than him. From 5-3 overnight Hendry had completed breaks of 86, 119 and 147 but when he came back from the half-session break it was a different player who stepped into the arena.

Instead of the steely grip Hendry normally has on his emotions, he looked pale and confused and White pounced with the relish of an animal spotting its natural prey in stricken circumstances. Now the breaks were coming his way and with visits of 67, 80 and 82 he rattled off the three remaining frames to trail only 8-7. How or if the world champion could regather his thoughts in the two sessions left will dictate how the match will go today.

"The concentration Stephen used took a lot out of him," Ian Doyle, Hendry's manager, said. "He was absolutely drained. I'm just glad he did it today and not in the morning because it could have been very damaging. Anyway, he's achieved an ambition and he can rest on it."

White, who has lost to Hendry in the last three Crucible finals, may never have a better chance of upsetting him.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield): Semi-finals: S Hendry (Sco) leads J White (Eng) 8-7.