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 Ebdon Shoulders Above the Rest
 Ebdon 18 Hendry 17
 World Championship Final Result
 and Report

Dedication, hard work and effort can still pay off in today’s quick fix lottery addicted, burger bar, and fast food culture.

Peter Ebdon a player, who was accused earlier in the season, of being "a banger, with no idea of where the cue ball would finish". By one of his fellow professionals, has won the ultimate prize in snooker and has secured a slice of immortality, after 17 days of gruelling competition in Sheffield.

Ebdon survived a nail-biting semi-final against the gallant Mathew Stevens of North Wales to book a final place against the in form Stephen Hendry who had sent home Ronnie O’Sullivan in an equally thrilling semi-final.

Stephen Hendry knocked in a phenomenal number of century breaks throughout the tournament and at times looked invincible.

The tournament was full of high quality matches played for the most part in tremendous spirit, what a credit to the game this championship was.

Ronnie O’Sullivan clearly needed to inject some needle into his semi-final encounter with Mr Hendry and so played a card reminiscent of a boxing contest by criticising his opponent prior to the start of the match. This breach of etiquette seemed to galvanise Stephen Hendry and in its way seemed to contribute to the downfall of the defending champion.

Returning to the final, Peter Ebdon appeared to have lost his chance to win when he missed an ordinarily routine black ball with the scores on 17-16 to him, to be fair Stephen cleared the table and set up a deciding frame, sudden death situation. This was of course tailor made for the television audience, it couldn’t have worked out better if a Hollywood filmmaker had scripted it.

Inevitably the subject of Peter’s missed black bears closer investigation, how many of us have made a similar mistake at club level and continued to play badly, unable to shrug off the mistake we had recently made due to our belief that we had let the team and ourselves down. Imagine this magnified by the television cameras, the Crucible audience and the title and prize money that it caries. What a courageous thing to come out for the next and deciding frame and play to win as though nothing untoward had happened.

During the LG Cup, I wrote that I believed that Peter Ebdon had much to offer the snooker circuit and that his previous outbursts at critical points of matches were not meant as disrespectful to his opponents or indeed the game itself. Peter has, I feel demonstrated the utmost commitment to the game and his supporters by controlling himself under the greatest pressure that the game can produce. A Crucible final against the "best player ever to pick up a cue" as Dennis Taylor describes him, Peter has emerged as arguably the most committed player ever to pick up a cue.

Having said all this we must spare a thought for the runner up, Stephen Hendry, he also mounted a tremendous tilt at the trophy and came away, as far as he looks at it with nothing. I do not agree with his feelings in this matter, I hope that he made new fans and gained additional respect from all who watch and take part in snooker. To mount such a sustained challenge was nothing short of miraculous. Nine finals, it goes without saying is a record in itself, good luck to Stephen for the coming season and who knows his managers prediction, made in 1987 may yet come true that Stephen could go on to win ten Embassy World Championships with this level of dedication and ability.

When you look back over the past twenty years, the list of champion’s names is I think surprisingly short and exclusive.

Peter Ebdon, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, John Higgins, Ken Doherty, Stephen Hendry, John Parrott, Steve Davis, Joe Johnson, Dennis Taylor and Alex Higgins. Of these eleven men, not many have competed in more than two finals so Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry are still streets ahead. I look forward to the coming years, hoping to see either Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins win another World Championship, they will no doubt have keen competition from the likes of Mathew Stevens and Stephen Lee.

Comparisons have been made between this and the 1985 final between Davis and Taylor. Another final, and the circumstances around it bears looking at. In terms of character, the return and triumph in the final of John Parrott, a man whose first final was an emotionally draining drubbing by Steve Davis, he returned in 1991 to triumph over the man in form at the time Jimmy White. That showed real grit and character.

Finally, from an English fan’s point of view, it was nice that back to back English players have won the title, not since Steve Davis and Joe Johnson has this happened, maybe next year an overseas player will win again. To me this is long overdue but we will enjoy this success, while it lasts.

David Smith


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