Mark Selby produced an exhibition of flawless snooker to send Stephen Hendry home with his tail firmly between his legs – and perhaps also to contemplate his immediate future in the game.
The Jester from Leicester pulled a few aces from the pack in the morning session to freeze Hendry out of the game completely. The Scotsman, who was tied at 4-4 with Selby, then went through one of the worst collapses of his professional career. The first three frames disappeared without so much as a whimper from Hendry. Crucially, he needed to take the frame before the mid-session interval if he was to stay in contention and for a few minutes it looked as though he would as he led by 60 points. But then came the shot that was to effectively decide the outcome of the match as Hendry went for a pot when the potting angle looked to be obscured. The red stayed up and even worse was to follow for Stephen as Mark strode to the table, dispatched the red and promptly cleared up with 62 to pinch the frame.
Hendry’s shoulders slumped and his body language told the story of a deflated man who had no answer to the onslaught he was being subjected to. That said, he did manage to pull himself together after the intermission to cut his arrears to 5-8. But that was all Selby was going to allow the Scotsman as he fired in breaks of 117 and 99 to move 10-5 in front before wrapping up the morning rout with runs of 36 and 72 to hold a commanding 11-5 advantage at the end of the session.
Never have I seen Hendry so deflated, and whatever your feelings towards any sportsman it is not a pleasurable experience to see someone so mentally destroyed in front of your very eyes. The only question was how long it would go on for in the evening session; Selby needed just two frames for victory.
The Jester made it clear that he was after an early night as he put together 66 points (including a break of 49) to increase his lead to 12-5. Needing only one frame for victory and a place in the last eight, Selby broke off and promptly snookered Hendry on the reds behind the yellow. As Hendry failed to escape on three occasions he finally left Selby with a shot to nothing. For once Selby blundered and left Hendry with a chance that he could only make 14 from. Selby left with a red close to the top corner pocket, blasted it in and left himself on the green. Sinking the green he ran out of position and elected to keep the pressure firmly on Hendry.
The end was soon in sight as Selby doubled a red into the centre pocket and followed with the green. Now he was at the business end of the table. A red from under the side cushion was swiftly dispatched. The lead was 31-13, and while negotiating the blue Selby also had to watch the cue ball disappear into the top corner pocket.
It was to be a temporary reprieve as Hendry’s rash attempt at a pot left a mid-length red to corner for the Leicester man. The red presented no problem and the straight blue to the corner duly followed. Now the table was at Selby’s mercy. Seven reds were left on the table, and as they disappeared it marked the countdown to a humiliating defeat for Hendry – the Scotsman was down and out in the most graphic of circumstances. As Selby sunk the pink he needed just one red. The red went down and even a miss on the brown was not going to make any difference. As Hendry offered his hand, the quickest session in Sheffield history had come to an end and with it, perhaps, Hendry’s playing career.