Stephen Maguire demolished countryman Stephen Hendry 13-2 to reach the semi-finals of the World Championship in Sheffield for the second time.
But the breaking news on day 11 of this year’s tournament is that King of the Crucible Stephen Hendry has officially announced his retirement from professional snooker.
The Scot has been the most successful player in the modern era of snooker – lifting 36 ranking trophies as well as dozens of other invitational events – and remarked that his decision had been made for two or three months.
There was very little air of sadness in the seven-time champion of the world’s voice, indeed he appeared content that the weight has now finally been lifted off his shoulders.
He has taken on a new role as an ambassador for Chinese snooker but I’m sure it will take a significant amount of time to come to terms with not being in the hustle and bustle of the competitive action.
In the quarter-final itself, there was great excitement for the contest between the two former practice partners but it never lived up to the billing thanks to a limp and lifeless Hendry – perhaps distracted by the upcoming news he was about to share.
By contrast, Maguire lived up to his nickname ‘On Fire’, growing into the game following an edgy start to race away from his boyhood hero with a barrage of heavy scoring.
The encounter could have been very different had seven-time Hendry not made a mess of a pink off the spot in the third frame to get his name on the scoreboard – missing a routine pot by inches – which led to him losing the first six frames and the subsequent five after he finally did establish the tiniest of footholds in the game.
Still, overall his run was a fitting conclusion to a glittering career for the former world no1 having come through qualifying and then claiming back-to-back victories at the Crucible for the first time since 2008 – as well as a record-equalling third maximum break at the venue on a thrilling opening day.
Maguire, on the other hand, has grown from strength to strength as the event has materialised – starting safely against Brecel but now blossoming under the renewed belief in his ability following an excellent 2012 that has included a PTC victory and a pair of ranking event finals.
The former UK champion burst onto the scene in 2004 and quickly labelled his 30th birthday as the expiry date for a world crown.
That date has now passed but, in this form, he will be a hard nut to crack – even for the likes of the two favourites left on the other side of the draw, Robertson and O’Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Robertson and Ali Carter both boast 5-3 leads overnight in two intriguing encounters that have the hallmarks of going the distance.
In a cracking atmosphere inside the arena, it was a case of punch and counter-punch between former champions Robertson and O’Sullivan as they shared the opening six frames with top breaks of 100 each.
Neither player was flawless as they both juggled high scoring visits with nervy exchanges to ensure the crowd were given complete value for their money.
After Robertson took a one frame advantage for the third time to lead 4-3, it looked like the ‘Rocket’ was going to square proceedings up once again in the last only to miss two golden opportunities on effectively frame balls to allow the former in to steal the eighth on the black.
Many pundits have touted this titanic battle as the final, virtually, with whomever emerging victorious becoming the overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy and, while it’s hard to argue with those sentiments, there are still a number of other proven winners in the mix.
As well as that, this event has been one of the most unpredictable in years with many of the top stars falling at the early hurdles so I don’t think any predictions can be made with your house on the line.
For Carter, conqueror of Judd Trump in a dramatic decider yesterday, the Englishman again played quite consistently to open up a two-frame cushion over Welshman Jamie Jones.
Debutant Jones mixed some poor frames with stellar ones – seemingly able to wipe the memory of surprising misses from his memory bank in order to knock in similarly unexpected sizeable contributions to reassert himself in the clash, something he has been able to do all week.
Indeed, the 24 year-old compiled the two highest breaks of the session – a 127 century and a 92 the highlight.
In a battle of two other Welshman, Matthew Stevens won nine frames on the trot to come from 5-2 down to compatriot Ryan Day to lead 11-5 heading into tomorrow.
The day and perhaps the story of the 2012 World Championship belongs to Stephen Hendry, an icon of the sport and a legend that will live on forever.
The full draw, latest and results can be viewed by clicking here.
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