FORMER world champion Stephen Hendry won the 110sport.tv Legends of Snooker tournament in Glenrothes last night when he defeated Ken Doherty 5-3 in the final.
It was perhaps no surprise in this field of veterans – which included Alex Higgins, Cliff Thorburn and Tony Knowles – that it was two 40-year-olds who contested the final.
Hendry, who had whitewashed Thorburn 5-0 in the semi-finals, led 2-0 thanks to a 71 in the first, and looked set for a three frame advantage after knocking in 66.
But Doherty, a 5-0 winner against Nigel Bond in their semi, produced a superb 67 clearance, then levelled at 2-2 by taking the fourth, and again at three-all when Hendry missed the brown.
Doherty looked set to lead for the first time in the match but ran out of position on the pink, which Hendry dispatched into the green pocket for 4-3. The Scot wrapped up the match and title by taking the next frame, much to the crowd's delight.
"The earlier rounds might have been about entertaining the audience and having a bit of fun. But that was a serious final and I'm delighted to have won it," said Hendry.
"It's obviously great to win any event, but I wanted to win this one with it literally being on my doorstep. I think I played well and did all the right things during the match, especially taking my chances."
Earlier, twice world champion Higgins failed to recapture his former genius as he was whitewashed 4-0 by Thorburn at the quarter-final stage of the tournament.
Despite a rousing reception from the crowd at the Rothes Halls, "the Hurricane" was never really in contention against "the Grinder", after moderate breaks of 51 and 32 put paid to the 60-year-old Northern Irishman.
Higgins was runner-up to Thorburn in the World Championship in 1980, losing 18-16 in a memorable final, but if his standard of play in Glenrothes fell short of that epic encounter at the Crucible, his determination to win remained undiminished, according to his opponent.
"I've said it before but no-one ever tries as hard as Alex," said 61-year-old Thorburn. "He has a great heart and he is a great competitor, even though he isn't the man he once was."
Higgins, who won the world title in 1972, and again a decade later, has suffered ill health in recent years. A heavy smoker and drinker, he has battled throat cancer and had a lymph node removed.
Previous attempts at a comeback to snooker by Higgins have been unsuccessful. In May this year he was reported to have entered the Northern Ireland amateur championship – "to give it a crack", he said – but he failed to appear for his match.
Jimmy White also crashed out of the tournament in Fife, the six-time world championship runner-up having no answer to the fluent Bond.
The 47-year-old "Whirlwind" pointed to a missed black in the final frame, but the fact was Bond simply outscored his more illustrious opponent, rattling in breaks of 95, 59, 75 and 55 to secure a semi-final place against Doherty.
Doherty became the first player through to the semi-finals when he defeated Tony Knowles 4-1. The Dubliner took a three frame lead over the former world No 2 before Knowles – who is still recovering from a shoulder operation – rolled in an excellent half century to cut the deficit to just two. Doherty however held out to win a tight fifth frame and the match.
"There was some good snooker played in that final frame, it got quite interesting as his safety was very good although I managed to get him back with some of my own," Doherty said afterwards.
"We both struggled with the pace of the table, as it was the first match played on it, but Tony still showed some of his old form during the match and hopefully I can get better from here on in."
Doherty, the world champion in 1997, has struggled with his game over the past three seasons and is currently ranked 44th in the world from a career high of two. And it showed last night.
Despite making a maximum 147 break against Shaun Murphy in the 2009 World Championship, Hendry has dropped to No 10 in the world rankings – falling outside the top eight for the first time since the 1987/1988 season – but he was still too good for Doherty in Glenrothes.