McManus relishing Hendry clash

Stephen Hendry has lost just two frames en route to the China Open semi-finals but his opponent in the last four is looking forward to playing him.

Stephen Hendry has lost just two frames en route to the China Open semi-finals but his opponent in the last four is looking forward to playing him.

Alan McManus cannot wait to lock horns with his fellow Scot when they meet at the Haidian Stadium in Beijing today.

The world number 10 secured his first semi-final appearance in a world ranking event since the LG Cup of October 2002 by beating Welshman Mark Williams 5-2.

The match was poor in quality, with world number two Williams suffering from a headache, but McManus was not complaining as he secured a 31st career meeting with Hendry, who holds a 22-8 advantage between the two.

McManus always relishes testing himself against snooker’s greatest ever player and believes he can cause Hendry problems if he fully focuses on his own game.

“I always look forward to playing Stephen,” he said. “I know a lot of people don’t, but I do. He’s had a really good season and has been very consistent. He seems to be back to where he was five or six years ago as far as his consistency goes.

“I’ll need to be really zoned in against him. If I concentrate on a few key things then I’ll give him a good game.”

McManus has appeared in 24 ranking-tournament semi-finals but won only eight of them. His only two ranking titles are the 1994 Dubai Classic and 1996 Thailand Open, a surprisingly poor return for a player who has been part of the elite top 16 for the last 13 seasons.

Hendry blitzed through with a 5-0 victory over Ricky Walden, which followed 5-1 successes against Robert Milkins and Ryan Day.

The 36-year-old, who won the Malta Cup two months ago, is chasing a 37th ranking-event title.

He was in danger of withdrawing from the Beijing event when he pulled a muscle during a session in his hotel gym the night before the match but some painkillers helped reduce the soreness and Hendry fashioned breaks of 83, 77 and 95 to bring up victory inside 90 minutes.

“I played very well, the best I’ve done all season,” said Hendry, who won the first ranking tournament staged in China 15 years ago.

Ken Doherty returned to form to reach his first semi-final for a year with a stunning 5-1 success over world number four Paul Hunter yesterday.

Doherty, beaten by Hunter in the last four of the Players Championship a year ago, pieced together 331 points without reply as he limited Hunter to just one point in the last three frames.

The Irishman faces not one opponent but around 2,000 locals when he tackles Chinese teenage prodigy Ding Jun Hui for a place in the final.

Ding celebrated his 18th birthday last night with an impressive 5-2 victory over Hong Kong’s Marco Fu to reach the first semi-final of his short career.

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