Snooker: World Championship: Hendry becomes one-armed bandit

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN HENDRY was in pain. You could tell from the concerned look and the sling supporting his left arm backstage at The Crucible. There was little evidence otherwise.

The notion he can win his fourth Embassy World Championship with one arm gained credence yesterday when he reached the semi-finals with a 13-8 win over Nigel Bond. To the non-expert eye, he looked as formidable as ever, the fracture below his left elbow an irritant rather than the sort of handicap they pile on a Grand National winner.

When Bond took the first frame yesterday to reduce his arrears to 10-7, Hendry merely kicked on again. Three frames were won in nine, 13 and eight minutes to take him within two victories of becoming only the second player in modern times after Steve Davis to win the world title three years in succession. Neatly, it will be Davis, a 13-9 winner against James Wattana, who will bar the way today.

It was a ruthless demolition that exposed few hints of weakness. Hendry knew better, however. 'If I was Joe Public the doctor would order me to rest the arm for two weeks,' he said. 'But I'm using it all the time, putting a strain on it. It's all right when I relax, but it bothers me during a match.'

Hendry, hurt when he slipped on a bathroom rug in his Sheffield hotel last Thursday, said it is when he is bridging or playing from close to the cushion, when he needs to press hard on the table, that he is most seriously inconvenienced.

He is taking anti-inflammatory drugs, but the most obvious sign that Hendry, a perfectionist's perfectionist, is being hampered came when he put his cue away after beating Bond. Normally, he works for three hours, even when he is due to play 16 frames that day. Now he will practice for no more than an hour.

For the last two years, Hendry's beaten opponent in the final has been Jimmy White and the No 3 seed moved nearer to a third meeting yesterday. He defeated Ken Doherty 13-10, providing a cameo version of his strengths and weaknesses.

Ahead 9-7 overnight, White, who has never won the title despite five appearances in the final, accelerated away in the opening stages with breaks of 94, 59 and 46 that should have put him out of the Irishman's reach. Then suddenly, he found potting relatively simple balls difficult. Doherty's form improved in concert with White's slump and, when he turned a 12-7 deficit into 12-10, a spectacular recovery was imminent.

White, however, pulled round and won the match with a break of 83. White, whose demeanour is gaining in confidence as his wins at The Crucible erase the memory of an undistinguished season, was emphatically upbeat: 'If I didn't think I could win it I wouldn't come here.' Darren Morgan, who beat John Parrott 13-11 last night, will be the next to test whether this is a grand bluff.