Snooker: Robidoux keeps up the momentum

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Alain Robidoux's impressive early-season form continued unchecked at Preston yesterday as the French-Canadian reached the last 32 of the UK Championship. Already up to a career-high 11th in the provisional rankings prior to arriving in Lancashire, Robidoux chalked up another valuable first-round victory against Jason Weston.

A stablemate of the world champion, Stephen Hendry, West Midlands-based Robidoux was never behind against the world No 123. But last season's Open semi-finalist was still made to battle to record a 9-7 win. Overnight the score stood at 4-4 and after two frames of the second session they were locked at 5-5.

Crucially, Robidoux won the next three frames, including a break of 78 to begin his charge. Weston cleared up from 54-28 down to make it 8-6 and also took frame 15. He led 32-22 in frame 16 but Robidoux kept his nerve to book a second-round meeting with the former English amateur champion Stephen Lee.

Hendry paid tribute to the little-known Welshman Dominic Dale after repelling his stubborn challenge to reach the second round. The Scot extended his match-winning streak in the game's second most prestigious event to 13 with a 9-6 victory late on Saturday night. But for long periods the 27- year-old was in serious danger of falling victim to a turn-up as Dale belied his 87th position in the world rankings.

"Dominic is a fantastic player, there's no hesitation in his game and I'm surprised that he hasn't done better," Hendry said. "Mind you, it's becoming quite a regular occurrence that lower-ranked players are raising their games against me."

The defending champion was beaten by Brian Morgan in the last 16 of the Asian Classic two months ago and by Matthew Stevens in the first round of last month's Grand Prix.

Hendry trailed 5-3 following an afternoon session in which his highest break was a modest 43. The opening two frames of the evening were shared before Hendry rediscovered his fluency with an 89 break in frame 11.