Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hendry back at the business end

Stephen Hendry always draws huge support at the big events - but this week he's been able to pay his loyal fans back with a timely burst of form.

The seven-time Crucible champion completed a 13-4 rout of defending champion John Higgins today to set up his 19th appearance at a Crucible quarter-final.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Although the Scot is clearly more comfortable than most in snooker's finest venue, before this year he'd only been as far as the last eight stage of the tournament once in the last seven attempts.

In typical Hendry fashion, he played down talk of his 'run' at this year's tournament stating he'd only won two matches. But when you consider he was forced to qualify for his place at a 27th consecutive World Championship and has lit up the venue with a 147 in a comfortable win against Stuart Bingham and has now beaten defending champion Higgins, it's quite a marked turnaround.

While Hendry has maintained his game was still there in practice, he has long struggled to bring it consistently into matches and has struggled to record victories against players in the top 16.

But this week it's just clicked.

He was excellently ruthless against Bingham and made some excellent breaks to beat Higgins.

That said, four-time Crucible winner John did his best to help him to victory. His performance in last night's second session was woeful, the worst he's ever produced at the Crucible and perhaps in his entire professional career.

Hendry has never been one to take pity on his opponent though. He's a born winner and dispatched of his old friend Higgins without so much of a whimper.

His progress so far has already got his legion of fans dreaming of an eighth world title but there's still a lot of work to be done. It's great to see him competing at the business end of tournament again and he looks to be enjoying every second of it.

The big matches are what Hendry thrives on and his next one one is massive. He meets another Scotsman, Stephen Maguire, who has looked in great form himself this week.

He arrived in Sheffield as one of the form men at the top of the game and has carried it on to that effect. His 13-7 win against Joe Perry showed again how he's playing with great confidence and authority.

He's been bullying the balls around the table like he does at his best and even winning frames he shouldn't be, such are his matchplay credentials.

Maguire definitely possesses the raw ability to challenge for a world title but it's keeping his sometimes wandering temperament in check that will determine whether he can go all the way.

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