Hendry win in final frame

 

GRATEFUL Stephen Hendry is still UK champion but only after the most dramatic Preston final for six years. Hendry held his nerve to deny countryman John Higgins his first UK crown after a dramatic 10-9 success before a capacity Guild Hall crowd last night.

And after making it three UK titles in a row and his fifth in all Hendry admitted: "The experience of being there before was a great bonus.

"I know how good I am under pressure but it was just producing it again because I haven't won a trophy this season before this."

What was expected to be a run-away triumph for the 27-year-old Scot turned out to be a nail-biting finale as - his World Cup colleague - staged his latest comeback of the tournament.

By capturing a re-spotted black finish to frame 13, Higgins, who had trailed 5-2 and 8-4, stormed into contention for a £70,000 first prize by reeling off five frames without reply.

Just when it seemed he had one hand on the trophy that has been in Hendry's possession since 1994, Higgins was denied his shot at glory. Hendry levelled at 9-9, snookering the World number two behind the green and then making an 82 break off his opponent's attempted escape.

Higgins broke off in the decider and there seemed little danger. However, Hendry smacked in a long red to fashion a run of 77 in only eight minutes to take him to the winning post.

"When John stole that frame before the interval it knocked me sideways," admitted Hendry unbeaten in 18 matches at the Guild Hall.

"My head wasn't in it and for the next four or five frames my concentration went out of the window. I played so many bad shots I couldn't believe it.

"In a way it was a carbon copy of my match against Steve Davis in the 1990 final when I was one down with two to play.

Hendry also picked up £5,000 for his 140 clearance during his third round victory over Anthon Hamilton - the highest of the televised stages.

Three more centuries in his victory over Higgins took his tally in the competition to seven and to 359 in his career. If there was one disappointment it was the missed opportunity to claim a maximum 147 break in frame 12.

He cleared 14 reds and 13 blacks but snookered himself on the 14th black to miss out on a possible £20,00 bonus.