Snooker: Morgan allows Hendry off hook

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Darren Morgan has already made an impression on the Embassy World Championship by weeping in a press conference, but for a few moments yesterday something far greater seemed possible: Stephen Hendry was vulnerable.

The six-times champion was missing shots and a 7-4 lead beckoned for Morgan, the ninth seed. But with the balls spread in a promising way, he went out of position and his chance was gone. Hendry pounced, and by the end of the first day of their quarter-final he was leading 9-7. It is not presumptious to expect him to convert that into a win this morning.

Which is a long way from where he was early yesterday when, if you did not know Hendry better, you would have assumed he had been out on the town the night before. He was yawning and rubbing his eyes and his cue work looked weary and inaccurate.

Morgan, whose tears after his win over Ronnie O'Sullivan in the previous round had been provoked by memories of his mother who died in November, accelerated away with breaks of 52, 84 and 77 and after the morning session had a lead of 5-3 that really deserved better.

Pinning the champion down is never easy no matter how badly he is playing, however, and when Morgan missed that chance to go 7-4 ahead Hendry was relentless, taking five out of six frames.

Ken Doherty somehow managed to slip out of the first session of his quarter- final against John Higgins level at 4-4 after a strange start to the match in which Higgins, who has never lost to Doherty, frequently threatened to dominate. The second seed led 3-0 and had chances to win virtually every frame that followed but his opponent clung on.

In the sixth frame Higgins established a 59-1 lead, missed a shot and had to squirm in his seat as his opponent made a 65 clearance. Higgins, who has told himself to forget that he is using a cue he only began playing with in January, glared at the piece of wood like it was an enemy.

Doherty, too, has a mental barrier to cross, although he can locate the problem in the mirror. The seventh seed is a player with maximum talent and a little less application and his manager, Ian Doyle, was moved to say of his 26-year-old charge: "Ken is lazy. He has let himself down.

"There's no point in a player lying in bed until lunchtime and then practising for a few hours. He's a talented young man but that doesn't compensate for the titles he should have won. It's like being an alcoholic. You have to realise you have a problem before you begin to treat the symptoms."

James Wattana, of Thailand, who appears to be getting better the longer the tournament lasts, tucked in for a 5-3 advantage over the 1991 champion, John Parrott. It was not Wattana at his best but Parrott was hardly flowing either.