Focused Hendry comes through qualifier to extend Crucible run

Seven-time champion Stephen Hendry survived a test of nerve yesterday to book his place at the World Championship.

Hendry, 43, succeeded where six-time champion Steve Davis and six-time runner-up Jimmy White both failed over the past week by coming through qualifying, beating Chinese player Yu Delu 10-6.

“I’m very pleased to be through,” said Hendry, who had said prior to the match that he would struggle to enjoy his qualifier.

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“I’m used to playing at the World Championship and it puts that little bit of extra pressure on you, to have to play an extra match to get there.”

Hendry, who last had to qualify in 1988 and has been ever-present at the Crucible since 1986, has fallen to 23rd in the world rankings.

He awaits today’s draw, knowing he will have to take on one of the 16 seeded players. Hendry also leaves for a business trip to China today, returning on Friday, a day before the World Championship begins. He is hoping to be among the late starters, affording him the weekend to shake off any jet lag, but that is up to the luck of the draw.

Yesterday he had breaks of 73, 69, 76 and 88 in converting an overnight 6-3 lead into a 10-6 victory. On Saturday he rattled off breaks of 129 and 107.

“I played quite nicely,” Hendry said. “I won a lot of frames in one visit.

“The most important thing was to just go out with the mindset of needing to win the match, no matter how I played, just get the match won.”

Belgian teenager Luca Brecel shattered Hendry’s record to become the youngest player to earn a place at the World Championship.

Brecel, who is 17 years and 36 days old, beat Essex’s Mark King 10-8 in the final round of qualifying, his fourth win of the week.

Hendry was also 17 but almost two months older when he first qualified. Brecel believes he is destined to win the world title in his career, and he will go to the Crucible with a fearless attitude, ready to take on anyone, even reigning champion John Higgins.

He said: “I feel absolutely fantastic. I didn’t expect this to happen this week. I didn’t think about becoming the youngest ever at all, although I knew about the record. I believe I can be a future world champion. Everybody is following me in Belgium and it’s just going to go crazy there now.”

The youngster made a nine-minute 147 break aged just 12, and has been waiting for his big chance.

“I went to the Crucible last year to watch some matches so I’ll know what to expect,” he said. “I haven’t thought about who I want to play next.”

Asked if he would gladly take on Higgins, he said: “I wouldn’t be afraid.”

He is the fifth 17-year-old in history to reach the Crucible, after Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Liu Chuang.

Elsewhere, Dumbarton’s Marcus Campbell suffered final-frame despair as he lost 10-9 to China’s Liang Wenbo. The Scot, who has by his own contention been in the best form of his career of late, had hauled it back to 9-9 despite being 7-2 down at one point, but he was unable to seal the deal.

There was more joy for China, as Liu Chuang beat Stoke’s Jamie Cope 10-7 and Leicester potter Tom Ford bowed out 10-9 to Cao Yupeng, who will be making his World Championship debut.

Hong Kong’s Marco Fu made light work of Joe Jogia, running out a 10-4 victor.

Wales enjoyed two wins, as Jamie Jones beat Ricky Walden 10-2 to secure a first Crucible appearance, while Ryan Day came from 7-3 behind to oust Northern Ireland’s Gerard Greene 10-8.

Ken Doherty survived a tense finish to edge past Anthony Hamilton and book his place in the draw.

In the final qualifying round, 1997 world champion Doherty beat Nottingham’s Hamilton 10-9. Doherty came in at the final stage because of his higher world ranking, and let a 9-7 lead slip before coming from 52-12 behind in the deciding frame with a gutsy 62 break.

Another former world champion booked his place in the shape of Peter Ebdon. The 2002 winner, who also triumphed at the China Open last month, cruised to a 10-0 whitewash of tour journeyman Alfie Burden.

Mark Davis ended Robert Milkins’ hopes, taking their contest 10-5.