Doherty reaches last four

 

Ken Doherty put his name in the frame for the Benson and Hedges Masters title thanks to a 6-2 quarterfinal victory over former champion Ronnie O'Sullivan yesterday.

But a midweek trip to the Claude Monet exhibition almost cost Doherty his place in the £575,000 competition at Wembley Conference Centre.

The former world champion suffered a bruised and swollen left hand after tripping on his way to catch the Tube.

Doherty initially feared he'd broken a bone but luckily the damage didn't prove too restrictive.

And he was able to gain revenge for defeat in last season's Irish Masters final though he eventually received the title by default anyway when O'Sullivan was punished for failing a drugs test.

"The hand is still a little sore but it was really bad the other night," explained the delighted Dubliner.

"I missed the step on the way down to the Tube and grabbed out to stop myself hitting the wall. It was a painful end to a relaxing afternoon."

And while he can't yet snap up a Monet, Doherty's guaranteed cheque for £40,000 certainly means he can afford the entrance fee a few times over.

It's the third time Doherty has reached the Masters semi-finals. He now hopes to turn today's last four appearance into a first Wembley final.

O'Sullivan became the youngest Masters champion at the age of 19 in 1995 but he offered little resistance to his former practice partner yesterday.

Low on confidence, O'Sullivan resorted to cueing right and left handed.

In the past his action has been criticised by opponents but there was no complaint from Doherty.

"Ronnie is a better player right handed in my opinion so I wasn't sorry to see him keep changing.

"He missed a few shots right handed at the start of the match that he wouldn't normally do. So, I guess he was just trying to get himself going."

The only hiccup for Doherty came when he was 5-1 up and poised to take the match 6-1.

But he lost a 56-1 lead in frame seven and O'Sullivan cleared up with 70. Doherty then saw O'Sullivan miss a tricky final green when poised to pull another frame back.

"I'm really low on confidence and it was a struggle out there," said O'Sullivan.

"I was just trying to get something going by playing left handed.

"Every sportsman goes through a crisis of confidence at least once in their career. Form is something that comes and goes and you can't put your finger on when it's going to happen."

Doherty meets Scotsman Alan McManus for a place in Sunday's final.

In the other quarter-final, John Higgins made a top break of just 49 but still advanced with a 6-1 victory over Wembley newcomer Mark King last night.

"I'll settle for a result like that every time, even if I don't make the breaks," he said.

Higgins is trying to become only the third player, after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, to hold the Masters, World and UK titles at the same time. "That triple crown would be a dream but it's going to be tough," said Higgins.

"I've got Anthony Hamilton next and he beat me here last season."

"He also put out Tony Drago in the quarter-finals and he was flying. I'll certainly have to up my game," added the world number one from Wishaw.

"I could see Mark was having problems with his cue tip and that gave me heart," added Higgins. "I really seem to thrive before the cameras and on the big stage, so there's no reason why I can't go on to take the title."