Twelve months earlier the feeling had been so different as the championship trophy was presented to the young Scot for the sixth time. With the 1996 win came the step up onto the snooker pedestal to confirm him as one of the best. His 18-12 win over Peter Ebdon had secured not just the title but also his place alongside Ray Reardon and Steve Davis as the masters of the modern era.
Ray Reardon, the smiling Welshman with a hint of mischief, ruled the 1970s. Steve Davis, in an era when flash and style dominated, was calm, cool and often virtually comatose in making the 1980s his own as he secured his six titles to equal Reardon's record. With Steve Davis the record bent but did not break; there was to be no number seven for him.
For Stephen Hendry, 1997 had presented him with the chance to make the record his own. However, he was left with an unfamiliar sensation - the taste of defeat. Hendry's previous six final appearances, five in succession, had all been won by the Scot. While the taste was unfamiliar in 1997, the desire to reach seven world championship wins was not diminished; instead it grew stronger.
Hendry, who made his debut in the Championship aged 17 and 3 months, had his first success aged 21. He was crowned the 1990 champion, becoming the youngest ever winner of the world title and the first Scot to win it since Walter Donaldson of Coatbridge in 1950.
In 1990 Hendry beat Jimmy White, as he did in 1992, 1993 and 1994. In finals, Hendry simply broke the Englishman's heart. In 1992 he won ten straight frames to take the title after trailing 8-14. To reach the magic 18 mark he finished with a flourish, ending with breaks of 134 and 112. 1993 was a comfortable 18-5 win however the 1994 final was a remarkable affair. Playing in the tournament despite a fractured elbow, which had been injured in a fall, the championship was decided in Henry's favour in the 35th and final frame. It could have been different as Jimmy White looked in control but he spurned his chance and Hendry won with the mark of a champion - a 58 final clearance. 1994 also brought Hendry the award of an MBE.
The 1997 final was the opportunity to become the undisputed best of the best but the happy ending did not appear as Ken Doherty triumphed and Reardon, Davis and Hendry remained a trio of six-time winners.
The 1998 final had a strange look to it with no blonde-haired Scotsman being introduced to the Crucible crowd. Stephen Hendry, six-times champion, had exited at the first round. His opponent gained a small measure of consolation, Jimmy White the victor 10-4.
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