How do you explain someone making a maximum in the opening frame of the match and then playing poorly for the rest of it?
It wasn’t the excitement of the 147 that saw Stephen Hendry lose focus. It was a reversion to recent type.
Hendry has been struggling for a couple of years but he still seems to start matches well before losing his way. It’s as if he gets himself pumped up for games but can’t sustain that intensity much past the first frame.
The maximum suggested that his problem is not one of technique but mental approach. However, his long game seemed to completely disappear as the match wore on and his performance was well below one that the great man would deem acceptable.
In some ways, if he just played badly all the time it would be easier for Hendry to accept his decline. He’s had a good innings and he could retire to the commentary box satisfied with his lot.
But the fact that he can still play well – very well – in spells is the frustrating part: it’s in there somewhere but how to stave off the lapses into mediocrity?
I don’t know if Hendry has ever consulted a sports psychologist but it might not be a bad idea.
The eight players remaining in the Wyldecrest Welsh Open are all ranking event winners and six are ranked in the top eight.
John Higgins and Mark Williams seem to have played the best snooker so far but the event remains wide open.
Last year, Stephen Maguire did a proper job on Williams in the quarter-final stage. It was good, old fashioned foot-on-the-throat snooker: he never let him see a ball.
The Scot hardly ever loses a first round match and is regularly in quarter and semi-finals but like any top player wants silverware, and hasn’t won a title for three years.
Matthew Stevens stuttered when close to the winning line before eventually edging out Ryan Day 4-3 yesterday.
He will have to cut out the unforced errors to stand a chance of dispatching Higgins, who looks fully determined.
Ding Junhui beat Mark Allen 4-3 from 3-1 down, a match played in a flat atmosphere with very few spectators watching. The Chinese is a joy to watch when in and scoring, playing with the same fluency and natural style as the game’s great break-builders.
However, Ali Carter is clearly a fan of Newport, having won the title there two years ago and reached the final last season.
It will be interesting to see Mark Selby’s approach against Graeme Dott. He admitted after their German Masters semi-final that he had gone into the match with a negative attitude and should have attacked more.
I always think Dott is dangerous, not just because he is obviously such a good player but because of his iron will to win.
We’re back to best of nines now, although clearly the best of seven format didn’t stop the cream once again rising to the top.