As Stephen Hendry made his 23rd appearance at the crucible nobody was expecting what eventually followed. At the age of 40 the seven times world champion had an edgy start against Mark Williams eventually closing in on a tight 10-7 victory. This seemed to give Hendry a new lease of life when in the following round he played inspired display of consistent long potting and gutsy clearances which led to a 13-10 victory over a strong Ding.
It was clear that the Hendry of old was back, his 5 world snooker championship 2023 victory set up at mouthwatering clash against 2005 champion Shaun Murphy. Murphy clung on in the opening exchanges to stay with Hendry at 4-2. the crucible theatre could never have anticipated what was to follow.
Frame seven, Murphy breaks and leaves Hendry a tricky opening red Stephen steps up to the baize with authority looking like the steely Hendry we had learned to love in the 90’s. Nobody was in any doubt over what happened the red is dispatched in a beautifully stroked shot in which he drops perfectly on the black. The scene was set at the crucible theatre the many thousand spectators were about to witness something special in a true Crucible champion compiling an amazing 9th 147.
It is under no doubt that the hullabaloo of the 147 spoiled Stephen’s concentration the break symbolized an emotional release of tension and frustration in which the player had struggled to find any form of this kind for many years. In the following frame Hendry was clearly on cloud 9 and missed a ridiculous red at close range. An imperious Murphy clears with an impressive 83 to reduce his arrears to just 2.
From that moment on in the match Murphy had been let back in, Hendry missed crucial balls at crucial stages in the match to surrender what was a lead became 3 frame deficit at 11-8. Although Murphy showed signs of nerves in frame 20 he made no mistake to seal an in the end comprehensive 13-11 win.
Hendry philosophical after the match commented that he would rather have run the match than made the 147 break. Perhaps, suggesting that the seven times world champion thought the 147 overshadowed his title bid.
Nevertheless, the legion of Hendry fans will be pleased by a promising 10 days at the crucible that showed promising signs of form for next season. The undoing of Hendry in recent years has been his concentration, missing easy balls, playing poor safety and his woeful long potting. He will need to show he is consistent over the season if he is to hope to win an eight world title.