Snooker: Ruthless Doherty rolls into final

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The Independent Online
Ken Doherty's form has been so good at the Embassy World Championship that everyone has been bracing themselves for the bubble to burst. They will have to wait a little longer because the Irishman is through to the final.

Doherty, the eighth seed, did not merely defeat Alain Robidoux, he routed him 17-7 with a session to spare at the Crucible last night. As a consequence the organisers will have to come up with an exhibition for today's afternoon session to compensate the paying fans who expected to see the climax of a semi-final.

If they wanted to show a display of ruthless use of opportunity then a video of this match would do splendidly. They were level at 4-4 overnight, but yesterday's morning session went 7-1 in Doherty's favour. The evening was almost as emphatic, going 6-2. The word landslide was on everyone's lips yesterday and Robidoux knew exactly what it meant.

Through it all Doherty, a close friend of his crushed opponent, was smiling. "The first session we had a good laugh," Robidoux said. "The second he was laughing and I wasn't. The third he was still laughing." Inside the Canadian, in his first world semi-final, was crying.

The morning was particularly brutal. Robidoux is not one of the heavy scorers at the table but he grinds players down with his safety play. Against Doherty it was like trying to quell a volcano. His scores were not huge but they were consistent.

"You have to be ruthless and put things like friendship out of your mind," Doherty said. "At the end I was sat there with a smile on my face like a Cheshire cat." The conclusion was swift, the last three frames being won in 29 minutes.

Doherty, who speaks to his mother after every match, continued: "She says her blood pressure is getting higher and higher while the folks who are supporting me are drinking so much they'll have to check in to the Betty Ford Clinic."

Doherty is the first player from the Republic of Ireland to reach the final and it is not inconceivable that Thailand will be similarly blessed as James Wattana is level with Stephen Hendry with two sessions of their match to go.

Yesterday Hendry frequently threatened to turn his overnight 5-3 lead into an insuperable margin but when the day's play had finished the score remained at 8-8. The reigning champion will be kicking himself for allowing himself to be pegged back to equality.

Particularly with the prizes to play for. Hendry is desperate for a seventh crown that would push him beyond Steve Davis and Ray Reardon as winner of most modern world titles while Wattana craves to escape from the list of snooker's nearly men.

The world amateur champion in 1988, Wattana, 27, would have overtaken Hendry by now if the expectations then had been fulfilled. Instead the six-times world champion is still miles ahead while the Thai has just three ranking tournaments to his name.

"There's not much difference in ability," Wattana said comparing himself to Hendry, "It's in the mind. That's why Stephen has been No.1 for so long. My mind is getting better."

Not by so much, though, that you would notice. Wait long enough with Wattana, who admits to having a problem with his concentration, and a mistake usually happens, which summed up the first two frames yesterday. The Thai made the initial break only to be buried by Hendry.

Those two frames gave Hendry a 7-3 lead which had the organisers fearing that tonight's session would be superfluous in addition to the afternoon one. But with Wattana on the ropes, Hendry lost his punch completely. Shot after shot was squandered and suddenly Wattana had the mental equivalent of a cold sponge on his face. Four out if five frames went to the Thai before the last frame of the day fell into his lap via a fluke. Ahead 54-42 he aimed a yellow into the bottom corner only to see it vibrate in the jaws before rolling along the cushion into another pocket.

"I've had bad luck for two years and I've not said anything," he said immediately after beating Parrott. "You have to accept the run of the balls." Today he will happily accept anything fortunate fate throws his way.

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