Stephen Hendry takes the Malta Cup
Stephen Hendry demonstrated his continued hunger for success as he claimed a tense 9-7 victory over Graeme Dott to win the Malta Cup and declared. 'I can win as many titles as I want to win.'
Hendry won his first major title, the Grand Prix, as an 18-year-old in 1987 and headed home with the £30,000 winner's cheque for his 36th ranking event success.
The 36-year-old, who has seven world titles to his name, had not won a ranking tournament since capturing the British Open in November 2003, but with almost £8million in on-table earnings and the universal respect of everyone in the game, Hendry could easily choose to walk away satisfied with his achievements.
But the man himself is determined to continue in his quest for even more silverware after winning the 72nd trophy of his 20-year professional career.
Hendry said. 'It's up to me. I can win as many titles as I want to win.
'If I have the desire to keep practising and putting the effort in then I'm one of the people capable of winning any tournament I turn up to play in.
'I said after losing in Wales (9-8 in the final to Ronnie O'Sullivan) that I'd win the next tournament, or the one after that, and I've done that. I feel my game can only improve now during the rest of the season.'
Hendry showed how much winning his fourth title in Malta meant to him by clenching his fist in victory after beating the determined Dott, who had rallied from 7-4 down to draw level at 7-7.
The match was poised to go the full distance when Dott needed only the blue to make it 8-8 but the world number 15 missed and Hendry gratefully mopped up the last three colours to get his hands on the trophy.
He spent eight years as world number one before losing top spot to John Higgins in 1998. Since then, Mark Williams and Ronnie O'Sullivan have twice swapped places at the head of the list.
Hendry's victory in Malta leaves him 8,000 points behind O'Sullivan in the latest provisional standings. The Irish Masters and China Open are each worth 4,000 to the winner while the Embassy World Championship carries 8,500 points to the eventual champion.
But Hendry dismissed the idea that he could return to the top of the rankings after seven years.
'I was world number one for eight years,' he said. 'I've been there and bought the T-shirt and it's not something I'm thinking about.
'Ronnie is too far in front to be caught. I'm just interested in playing well and winning more matches.'
As Hendry celebrated yet another victory, Dott was left to rue what might have been.
A surprise Crucible finalist last year, Dott has now lost all eight of his meetings with Hendry and all four of the major finals he has contested.
He was hammered 9-1 by Hendry in the climax of the 1999 Scottish Open, lost 9-6 to John Higgins in the 2001 British Open final and 18-8 to O'Sullivan at the world championship.
'It's a bit annoying that I keep drawing world champions in major finals,' said Dott, who came from 5-2 down to edge Higgins 6-5 in the semi-finals.
'All four times the player who has beaten me has been on top form. It's a little hard to take.'
Sporting Life - 7/2/2005