Royal London Watches Grand Prix 2008: Day Two – Hendry and Davis seal narrow victories

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Click below for the details of the first two matches this afternoon involving legends Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis…

Stephen Hendry 5-4 Dave Gilbert


Seven times world champion Stephen Hendry came through a tense affair this afternoon to win his first match of the season against Tamworth’s Dave Gilbert 5-4.

Without playing at his best, breaks of 69 and 70 put Hendry 2-0 up early on as Gilbert struggled to settle into the match. Presented with his first big chance in frame three however, Dave made no mistake as he took it a clearance of 123, only the 24th career century break of his career. This seemed to give him the confidence boost that he needed as he levelled the match going into the mid-session interval at 2-2.

Hendry at this point really seemed to be struggling, but he moved back into the lead in the next with a break of 98. He still didn’t look himself however as he wasted a fantastic chance to move 4-2 ahead in the next, going in-off when attempting split the bunch of reds. Though this was unfortunate, there was no real need to go into the pack at this point as there were at least four or five open reds that would have allowed him to clinch the frame. Instead Gilbert got in and levelled things once again at 3-3.

Hendry again moved ahead in the next frame but the real drama of the match was to come in frame eight when Gilbert found himself in amongst the reds and with a real chance of a 147. The balls were absolutely perfect and you would have really fancied a more experienced player to see it through, but unfortunately Dave missed a red on 88 and could not believe it.

He had at least done enough to force a deciding frame which was to be a tense, error-strewn affair with several chances for both players. Gilbert in particular had a fantastic chance to win at one point but missed a relatively straightforward black at pace, gifting Hendry another opportunity, though likewise he was soon to falter. Eventually it came down to the final seven balls before Stephen potted a superb double on the final red, an incredibly gutsy shot to take on given the situation of the match. Although he missed the final blue, he managed to leave it safe and Dave was not so lucky on his return to the table, sticking it right over one of the pockets to hand the match to Stephen.

Dave will be gutted to have not seen the match through, just like at the 2007 World Championship when he lost against Hendry having led 5-1. Stephen however will just be relieved to win his first match of the season and give his confidence a much needed boost. The result is also good for his provisional ranking as had Hendry lost today he would have taken only 875 points, whilst now he is guaranteed at least 2,375 for reaching the last 16.

Stephen Hendry 5-4 Dave Gilbert 74(69)-1, 99(70)-6, 12-127(123), 28-59(44), 98(98)-36(36), 18-68, 62-33, 0-88(88), 67(40)-44(35)

Steve Davis 5-4 Neil Robertson

Joining Hendry in the next round was six-times world champion Steve Davis who continued his impressive recent form with a 5-4 win over the struggling Neil Robertson.

I did not see much of this as I was watching the Hendry match but again it was a very close affair, neither gaining a lead of more than a frame as the march lurched to the inevitable deciding frame. Both had their chances but in the end it was Steve’s experience that saw him through as he booked his place in Tuesday’s draw.

It is important for Steve that he wins a few matches this week as he looks like having to miss the TV stages of the Bahrain event due to the clash with the Premier League. The more ranking points he can gain here therefore, the less that important that will hopefully prove to be.

Neil meanwhile continues to underperform and will slip further down the updated provisional list. I remember at the Welsh Open last year he said that he had noticed how much slower he had been playing than during his 2006 success and this was again evident today. At one point he was averaging 31 seconds a shot which is a lot for a normally quick player like Robertson, even Steve was playing quicker. I wonder if this is something that he is comfortable with or whether it is something he should look at.

Neil Robertson 4-5 Steve Davis 26-99(31,28), 56-9, 31-60, 94(75)-0, 65-72(rsb), 78(33,41)-0, 25-64(43), 83(60)-19, 31-72(38)