Over the final days before the World Championship begins, I take a look back at each of them, in turn of their title.
In our final look back, we go to 1997, New Labour was in, and Katrina and the Waves won the Eurovision for the United Kingdom, the changing of the guard capped off that weekend on the baize.
KEN DOHERTY (1969-) Crucible Champion 1997
So then, Ken Doherty, the last of the former champions, the youngest of the former champions to be included in this line up, at 41 years old, younger than a few of the 32 runners and riders which will be jumping the 17 fences from 10am tomorrow. Doherty is the first Republic champion and the only one to date, in addition to being the first person to win all three single World Championships, Amateur, U-21 and the main one, the one that matters, Professional.
Ken’s career began in 1991, when he pushed Steve Davis 10-8 in the First Round on his debut, despite appearing in TV finals at the Rothmans in 1992, it would not be until Ken entered the top 16, and thus was at the Crucible without having to qualify. A quarter-final appearance in 1994 was followed by disappointing showings, ;losing 10-7 to Mark Davis in the first round in 1995, along with a 13-5 defeat against Darren Morgan in 1996. Coming to the Crucible as the number 7 seed for the 1997 tournament, few gave him hope of reaching the one table set up, given the firm belief amongst the games elder statesmen of retired players that he was a talented player who wasted his talent.
His first round match would be up against Mark Davis, the same man who’d beaten him in the first round of 95, arguably more aware of Davis’ abilities to turn him over if he didn’t show up his main game, Doherty started well, breaks of 71, 42, 49 and 94 helping him go 3-0 in front and when pegged back to 3-3, breaks of 46 and 35 would ensure that he held an overnight lead of 5-4. In Sunday’s final session a break of 84 restored Ken’s lead when Mark levelled at 5-5, going into the interval at 7-6, Davis again levelled to go 7-7 before Doherty made breaks of 92, 46 and 35 to go 9-7 in front. A 37 from Davis would make it 8-9 before Ken secured the match, with a break of 40 in the 18th frame.
In round two he would meet 10th seeded Steve Davis. Steve’s lowest ranking since the 1981 World title success when 13th. Obviously an outsider for the title but a 10-2 victory over David McLellan in round one had firmed up assurances that he was in good form, and that the Masters win in February had not been a fluke. Doherty, realising the need for good form set off immediately, breaks of 51, 104, 101 and 47 helped him take a 5-0 lead, and despite making tidy runs in the next two, only the 56 in the final frame of the session would secure a 6-2 lead when a fairer scoreline could have been 7=-1 or 8-0. Confidence high after this showing Ken punished Steve from the off again on Sunday night, Breaks of 71, 62, 65 and 96 helping him to 10-2 by the interval, and breaks of 66, 31, 54 and 68 would take him 12-2 up before Davis took the 15th frame. However a break of 41 in the final frame would send Ken through 13-3 with a session to spare, Doherty in the sixteen frames had made 16 breaks of 30+.
In the quarter-finals, Doherty would meet Davis’ successor as World number two, John Higgins had com[pleted routine wins 10-6 over Graham Horne and Dominic Dale 13-5 to reach the last eight for the second time. Higgins, seeded higher went 3-0 in front early on before Crafty safety from the Dubliner helped him in making runs of 58, 33, 41 and 65 to level at 3-3, with a 42 at the end of the session to level at 4-4 at the end of Tuesday’s play. A 91 in the opening frame of the Wednesday morning helped Ken go 5-4, along with runs of 68 and 35 helping him regain the lead on his way to a 9-6 advantage, John won the final frame of the morning to go 9-7 but having won nine of the last thirteen, the momentum was with the Irishman.
A break of 72 helped John pull another back before Ken forged ahead to 11-8, and though John would take the last before the interval, breaks of 67 and 116 would give the match to Ken 13-9. Setting up a Semi-Final with Alain Robidoux who had not played a top 32 player en route to the last four, beating Brian Morgan (49th) 10-8, Stefan Mazrocis (81st) 13-9 and Lee Walker (189th) 13-8 to reach the semi-finals from a quarter of shocks. This match would be over the best of 33 frames, the longest semi-final format for 18 years.
Beginning the match on the Thursday afternoon, Ken made a 66 to go 1-0 up, and breaks of 35 and 60 to level at 2-2. Breaks of 32 and 75 would help Doherty come from behind twice more in the session to come out of it, level at 4-4. On Friday morning, Doherty upped the standard, and given Robidouxs relatively simpler run to the last four he had no answer, breaks of 43, 54, 43, 30, 34, and 33 would take Doherty to 9-4, and though Alain, the first Canadian in the last four for nine years, won the next, Doherty would make breaks of 36 and 50 to finish the session 11-5 to go into the midpoint of the match needing six of the remaining 17 to go through.
Runs of 59, 38 and 32 would help Robidoux close the gap to 12-7, however from there, Doherty pulled away, breaks of 36, 76, 49, 74 and 73 took him to 17-7 and through with a session to spare for the second time in the championships. His final opponent would be Stephen Hendry, chasing the seventh title.
Considering Stephen’s usual pedigree in his world title successes, it makes one wonder whether or not Ken’s victory was such a surprise as previous;ly suspected, Stephen eliminated Andy Hicks 10-6, Mark Williams 13-8, Darren Morgan 13-10 and James Wattana 17-13 to reach the final again.
Hendry however would open the final with two centuries after losing the first to go 2-1 up, however, Doherty, arguably much fresher considering he’d dropped 27 frames to Stephens 37 en route, plus that he’d won two matches with sessions to spare, made breaks of 40, 69, 43, 32 and 59 to go 5-2 up before Hendry made a 122, his third century to win his third frame, to trail 5-3 at the end of Sunday afternoon. A break of 43 would make the score 5-4 but from there Doherty scored the heavier, breaks of 48 and 41 making it 6-4, a respot win in the 11th making it 7-4, breaks of 38, 42 and 85 would help make the score 10-4 before Stephen won the 15th with a 44, when Ken had been first in with 47, a 52 would help Doherty finish Sunday night with an 11-5 lead. Hendry, tipped to win the title still by many, given his experience of winning from six down in 1992, would have to become the first person to win from 5-11 down the night before.
A break of 58 would make it 11-6 before a 70 from Ken made it 12-6, a 92 from Stephen in the nineteenth was succeeded by breaks of 35, 46, 52 and 33 to go 15-7 in front, Hendry would make breaks of 137, his fourth century of the final, and 43 to close the gap to 15-9, Doherty would now be favourite, but with Hendry finishing the Monday afternoon the stronger, many wondered how Doherty would respond if Hendry could get near him, given the need to ideally win the first session 4-0, 3-1 at worst to have any slight chance.
Breaks of 51 and 110 would help Stephen make it five frames on the bounce to make it 15-12, but a 61 in the final frame before the interval would ensure that Doherty, at the most vulnerable anyone had seen him in the 17 days previous;ly. However, breaks of 61, 50 and 43 would take the Dubliner home 18-12 to win the title. Famously, Dublin police station received 0 calls between 7 and 10 on the Monday night.
Ken’s defence in 1998 is the second best ever seen, following a 10-8 win over Lee Walker in round one, victories over Stephen Lee, Matthew Stevens and Mark Williams would take him into the final where he would meet John Higgins losing 18-12, his third final appearance in 2003 is arguably the most memorable, wins over Shaun Murphy 10-9, Graeme Dott 13-12, John Higgins 13-8 (from 10-0 and 10-7 up) – and Paul Hunter (from 15-9 down) 17-16 would set up a showpiece encounter with Mark Williams, who won 18-16.
Ken Doherty’s Crucible Record
1991 – (Q) Rd1 10-8 v Steve Davis
1992-1993 failed to qualify
1994 (11) QF 13-10 v Jimmy White
1995 (7) Rd1 10-7 v Mark Davis
1996 (9) Rd2 13-5 v Darren Morgan
1997 (7) WINNER 18-12 v Stephen Hendry
1998 (1) FINAL 18-12 v John Higgins
1999 (4) QF 13-9 v Mark Williams
2000 (7) Rd2 13-12 v Anthony Hamilton
2001 (7) QF 13-6 v John Higgins
2002 (4) QF 13-12 v Stephen Hendry
2003 (5) FINAL 18-16 v Mark Williams
2004 (6) Rd1 10-5 v Joe Swail
2005 (7) Rd2 13-11 v Alan McManus
2006 (12) QF 13-10 v Marco Fu
2007 (3) Rd1 10-7 v Mark Allen
2008 (4) Rd1 10-5 v Liang Wenbo
2009 failed to qualify
2010 (Q) Rd1 10-4 v Mark Selby
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