STEPHEN Hendry shrugged off the effects of a 10,000-mile round trip to China as he fired in a thrilling 147 maximum break on day one of the Betfred.com World Championship.
The 43-year-old Scot, seven times a world champion, only arrived back in the country yesterday after his long-haul business trip, which began on Monday, a day after he won a qualifying match to reach the Crucible.
He had joked last Sunday that playing with jet lag might help his game, after a difficult season in which he has struggled for results.
But Hendry cannot have dreamed he would play so well today, as he opened up an 8-1 lead over Stuart Bingham, needing just two more frames tomorrow to reach the second round, where John Higgins could await him.
The maximum came in the seventh frame and was the third Hendry has managed at the Sheffield venue, after previous efforts in 1995 and 2009. Ronnie O’Sullivan is the only other player with three Crucible maximums.
Hendry said: “I have a match still to win, but the 147 was probably one of my best, position-wise, and it was absolutely fantastic to make a third maximum at the World Championship.
“I felt really good out there, and the jet lag - well, sleep is for wimps. It’s the new way, fly in to Sheffield the day before with no practice!
“That ties with me with Ronnie to have made three here, and I don’t care what Mark Williams says about the Crucible, there is no better feeling than to make one here.”
Hendry’s closing remark was a response to the Twitter outburst from his friend Williams, the two-time world champion, who rubbished the Crucible venue yesterday and said he hoped the World Championship would move to China.
Now Hendry stands to earn £50,000 for his feat unless any other player makes a maximum, in which case the prize-money would be split. Hendry is set to pick up £40,000 for the 147, and a £10,000 highest-break prize.
Ken Doherty and Neil Robertson, former world champions playing on the other side of the arena, stopped playing as Hendry moved close to the magical mark, and together with Bingham they offered their congratulations. The 2009 maximum break earned Hendry £157,000 but World Snooker have downgraded the prize fund for maximums, starting at £5,000 and rolling over by £5,000 per tournament.
Hendry punched the air on potting the straightforward black to clinch the reward, and raised his glass of water as the crowd stood to acclaim his feat.
It is 12 years since Hendry, as defending champion, was beaten by Bingham in the first round in Sheffield.
He has not won a world title since and is an outsider this year, but not for long if he keeps up the form that looks to have killed off Bingham’s hopes.
Hendry’s business trip dash to China took him beyond Mongolia and close to the North Korean border, to the city of Changchun.
It was also Hendry’s sixth trek to China since the start of the year.
The signs were nevertheless good for Hendry today as he raced 3-0 in front, helped by breaks of 100 and 89, and reached 45 after an opening fluke in the fourth frame before missing a near-straight red when attempting to screw back aggressively.
Bingham took advantage to put his first frame on the scoreboard, but Hendry was back to clean-potting ways with a 78 in the fifth frame, and 61 in the sixth made it 5-1.
Then came the maximum, which looked a realistic prospect from a very early stage.
He held his nerve as the anticipation built, and left himself an easy black to complete the perfect break, the 11th 147 of his career.
As Bingham kept presenting Hendry with chances, so Hendry kept inflicting punishment. Further breaks of 75 and 65 followed in the closing two frames of the session.
Robertson, champion two years ago, sped to a 7-2 lead over 1997 winner Doherty.
In the second frame Doherty threatened a 147 but missed the 14th red after taking 13 reds and blacks, breaking down on 104.
Doherty was 3-2 behind at one stage, but Robertson stepped up the pace and surged clear with centuries in each of the final three frames - 106, 108 and 100.
Earlier, 30-year-old former potato farmer David Gilbert surged 6-3 ahead of Martin Gould, while John Higgins edged 5-4 ahead of Liang Wenbo.
Defending world champion Higgins slipped from 3-1 ahead to 4-3 ahead before coming from 54-0 behind to take frame eight with a run of 72, and edging the last of the session.
Higgins and Liang play to a finish from 7pm tonight.