In the end it was academic. The score, possibly harsh to his opponent Stuart Bingham, however in the end the ‘King of the Crucible’ Stephen Hendry outclassed and outplayed and, for at least one round, showed the form that belied the Scotsman having to pre-qualify for the event and won the hearts of millions with his clinical play and potting skills that won him 7 world championships.
The match between the two players was notable from the start as the first female Chinese referee to speak in hushed tones at the hallowed halls of snooker; Zhu Ying made her way to table one and carried on the great work by fellow referee Michaela Tabb. If anything Ms. Ying was the coolest person on that side of the dividing partition as the players took part in a nervy first frame which Hendry came through 69-44.
It was back to the 1990’s for the second frame as Hendry looked cool and calm as he potted a 100 break and from that moment, bar a couple of hiccups he took control and although it may be a stretch to far, even for his most ardent fans to hope for, to see him on Spring Bank Holiday Monday picking up the trophy, he will have at least given the remaining 16 players at that point something to chew over.
At the end of the first session Stephen Hendry held a good lead of 3-1. After the break, the tension seemed to rise in the Crucible and whilst on table two the match between the 1997 Champion Ken Doherty and the world number six Neil Robertson was alleviating any tension in the audience with the occasional comment that drew a spattering of occasional laughter, It was vintage Stephen Hendry as twice it looked as though he was going to go on take Stuart Bingham apart fell at the last. However it all came true in the seventh frame in which the former Champion looked composed enough to take on the world again racked in the first 147 in the match. It was spellbinding snooker, an absolute master class in the game and for those that saw it television or even were fortunate to have tickets for the afternoon session in Sheffield it will burn long into their memory.
Even though during the remaining frames available, Stephen Hendry let three frames get away from him, the result was never much in doubt and as the match culminated on the Sunday evening with a final frame drubbing of 96-0, there were those in the crucible dreaming of seeing this man lift the trophy again. There will be another time for Stuart Bingham to show why he is the world number 16 but for now it seems as if Hendry was back.
The World Snooker Championship continues until 7th May.
Ian D. Hall