20 Years Since Peter Ebdon Torpedoed The ‘King Hendry The Eighth’ Headlines

It has been two decades since Ebdon denied Hendry an eighth, record-breaking World Championship win
11:05, 26 Apr 2022

When Stephen Hendry beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals of the 2002 World Championship the Scot might have been forgiven for thinking that the hardest part of the job to extend his own Crucible theatre record and win an eighth world title was done. 

The high-profile clash with fierce rival ‘The Rocket’ had been dripping with tension, edge and ill-feeling after O’Sullivan’s pre-match boast that he would send Hendry ‘back up to his sad little life in Scotland’. It felt like a final, and even Hendry, with his iron-clad winner’s mentality, allowed some small sense of that to seep into his mindset. 

Hardly anyone fancied Ebdon, who had lost comfortably to Hendry in the 1996 world final, to do any better this time around. But what they failed to take into account was almost terrifying levels of determination and fight that Ebdon was prepared to exert to fulfil his own lifelong dream. 

Ebdon, then 31, had gained himself a reputation in the conservative world of snooker as a player not quite in the mould of the others, with a diverse range of off-table interests and a tendency to give loud voice to his feelings in the heat of battle in the arena. One such occasion saw the Londoner let rip at the Masters when clearing up to win against Hendry. That incident was not forgotten. 

Hendry recalled: “When he potted that brown against me at the Masters in 1995 and went absolutely mental…when sat in your chair, you don’t like that. It wasn’t the done thing. My record against Peter though was generally good. But I came through the semi-final against Ronnie, and basically that felt like the final. Subconsciously or even consciously, I thought there is no way Peter can beat me over four sessions.” 

Ebdon had come through a titanic semi-final himself against Crucible nearly man Matthew Stevens 17-16 in a gripping thriller that saw him claw back to win from two down with three to play. And that gave him further belief that even though he saw Hendry as the “biggest, baddest, meanest Great White Shark in snooker…a ferocious killing machine”, there was a path to a first world title. 

He said: “I arrived at that World Championship in great nick, and I knew in my heart I had a chance of becoming world champion. I am sure there was a part of Stephen that felt all he had to do was turn up and he would win, with all his experience. That was certainly a factor in the 1996 final. But this time I was ready. We both believed 100 per cent that we would win.” 

If Hendry was harbouring doubts that perhaps he was not quite mentally prepared for the test ahead, those fears confirmed as Ebdon stormed into an early 4-0 lead – and though he fought back well, his underdog opponent led 10-6 overnight. But when the Scot got back to 12-12 on the final day after the third session, everyone in the building bar Ebdon anticipated only one result. Hendry admitted: “At 12-12 I absolutely expected to win again, probably getting ahead of myself.” 

That looked likely as Hendry moved 14-12 ahead, but once Ebdon got back to 14-14 his almost unshakeable faith that this was his year proved simply impossible to break down. And even though a missed black off the spot at 17-16 when trying to close it out allowed Hendry to force the decider, Ebdon would not be denied. 

A devastated Hendry said: “You just want one good chance in a decider…he had a couple of goes from distance and could have left me easy ones but didn’t, made a good break to take charge and I couldn’t save myself. Even at 17-17 I was so confident, so you have to give him credit especially after missing a black off the spot in the frame before. 

“It is right up there with my very worst moments at the Crucible – this, the Ken Doherty final in 1997 where I felt I should have won, and the Steve James quarter-final in 1991 where I was trying to defend.” 

The spoils, though, after a momentous final, went to Ebdon – denying Hendry an eighth title in the last Crucible final that he would ever reach, and winning what would be his only world title and defining career moment. 

Ebdon said: “I had missed a great chance to win at 17-16, so all I could do was dig in deeper in the decider. I asked myself for more, and I found more. In the final frame my mouth had never been that dry, and it was an amazing feeling to come through and win. It was one of the few finals to go the distance, and in its own way a great match.” 

The 2002 World Championship final at the Crucible between Peter Ebdon and Stephen Hendry is featured in ‘The Crucible’s Greatest Matches’ by Hector Nunns, published by Pitch Publishing.  

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