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Hendry's Hopton hopes

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:56 05 July 2010

Stephen Hendry will be in action at Potters this weekend. PHOTO: LIBRARY

Stephen Hendry will be in action at Potters this weekend. PHOTO: LIBRARY

Michael Bailey

Snooker legend Stephen Hendry admits he is the underdog as the east coast prepares to host the Premier League Snooker play-offs this weekend.

Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton-on-Sea will host the prestige snooker event - a first for the county - after seven of the world's top players battled through the group stages, which started back in September.

Snooker legend Stephen Hendry admits he is the underdog as the east coast prepares to host the Premier League Snooker play-offs this weekend.

Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton-on-Sea will host the prestige snooker event - a first for the county - after seven of the world's top players battled through the group stages, which started back in September.

After Hendry stumbled to two heavy opening defeats against debutants Mark Selby and Joe Perry, the seven-time world champion showed grit and determination to qualify for Saturday's Sky TV televised semi-finals, drawing his final group match with China's Ding Junhui to finish fourth in the table.

And having scraped into the final four, Hendry admits he is just happy to be making his first trip to East Anglia - although he is not about to wave the white flag just yet.

“I would say I'm probably the underdog but I lost my first two games, so to still qualify, I'm absolutely delighted,” said the 39-year-old.

“But we all have a chance. It all comes down to the week and if you hit form at the right time, you can win it.

“It's a title and I haven't won any title of note for the last three or four years. There is a big ranking event in the UK Masters coming up next month and winning this would certainly be a big confidence boost ahead of that.

“The Premier League is one of the ones that players in the tournament enjoy. It is different to the normal ranking tournaments in that it's been running since September, rather than a single block of matches.

“But now it's back to knockout snooker and, of the four of us, we're all used to that and the one that plays the best will win.”

Hendry is a legend on the baize, winning 36 ranking titles and pocketing more than £8million in prize money during a 24-year professional career.

But Hendry's last ranking title came in 2005 and he is hoping to start winning silverware again as soon as possible.

Having avoided Ronnie O'Sullivan - who is looking for a record fifth successive Premier League title - in Saturday's semi-finals, you could argue Hendry has the easier draw, but the former world number one does not think so as he prepares to face group winner Mark Selby, who beat the Scot 5-1 in their league meeting back in September.

“After the start I had, I was just happy to qualify and there is no easy draw,” added Hendry.

“On paper, Ronnie is the most difficult but Mark finished top of the group so he could arguably be a harder draw.

“But undoubtedly, it's four top players and there's no way I could say I want him or him.”

The Premier League is lucrative, with £1,000 on offer for every frame won in the group matches.

All four qualifiers will have earned around £30,000 from their exploits so far - and there is a further £50,000 on offer to Sunday's eventual winner.

The main factor that marks out this competition from others is the 25-second shot clock placed on each player's turn - something Hendry feels has worked to the current world number one's advantage.

“There is no doubt it suits Ronnie, he is the quickest player of the four qualifiers. But I don't think the shot clock is a big issue when you're playing well. It's only when you are not playing well that I think it affects you,” Hendry said.

“Even the other three of us, we're not particularly slow around the table but we would go round a couple of times to look at things and we don't have that with this.

“Ronnie's favourite, he's won it for the last four years. Joe and Mark have qualified in their first year so they're obviously comfortable with the format, so there should be some great snooker.”

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