O'Sullivan races clear

Stephen Hendry suffered his first ever session whitewash at the 888.com World Championships as Ronnie O’Sullivan won all eight frames to open up a 12-4 lead in their semi-final clash at the Crucible Theatre.

Seven times world champion Hendry has inflicted similar punishment during his distinguished career at snooker’s premier tournament to Terry Griffiths (1992), Jimmy White (1992) and Danny Fowler (1993).

But this was the first time he had been on the receiving end of the same treatment as O’Sullivan moved to within five frames of clinching his place in the final in the best-of-33 showdown.

Hendry had his opportunities in the early part of the session and could conceivably have won the opening three frames.

But the Scot failed to make the most of those opportunities and paid a heavy price with O’Sullivan at one stage scoring 448 points without reply.

The Rocket, who defeated Hendry 17-4 in their last world championship meeting in the 2004 semi-finals, compiled two centuries and five other 50 plus breaks.

It is hard to believe that Hendry led 4-1 at one stage and he has now lost 11 frames on the trot to the impressive O’Sullivan.

No wonder he admitted that O’Sullivan is the best front-runner in the game and the 32-year-old cued beautifully and was ruthless when he got in among the balls.

The tone was set in the opening frame of the day when Hendry missed a red which he left over a corner pocket and O’Sullivan cashed in with a 93 break to take the lead for the first time.

Hendry was again first among the balls in the next with a 53 and then O’Sullivan responded with a 44 before missing the final blue only to snooker his opponent behind the pink.

Hendry tried to pot the blue via a cushion but failed to make contact and, with the ball hanging over the black pocket, O’Sullivan cleared up.

It was a similar scenario in the next with Hendry putting together a 35 and O’Sullivan replying with 57 before laying a snooker on the final red.

Hendry escaped at the second attempt but O’Sullivan again took advantage.

The final frame before the interval was more clear-cut with O’Sullivan’s 87 break settling the issue after a superb long red had set him on his way.

After the break O’Sullivan really turned on the style with a 133 clearance in frame 13 and a 135 in the next.

Hendry finally got some points back on the scoreboard in frame 15 after O’Sullivan’s scoring blitz but an 85 stretched his lead to 11-4.

The 39-year-old tried hard to avoid the whitewash and led 44-0 in the final frame but he let O’Sullivan back in with a 70 which left him needing snookers.

Joe Perry will be looking to build on his two frame lead when his semi-final with Ali Carter resumes this afternoon.

The Cambridgeshire potter took advantage of a below-par performance from Carter who would have been relatively happy to be trailing only 5-3.

Perry had been in action until close to midnight on Wednesday before closing out a dramatic 13-12 win over a shell-shocked Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals.

But the 33-year-old world number 18 showed no visible effects of his marathon match and appeared slightly less nervous in a tense session between two players making their first last-four appearance in snooker’s premier tournament.

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