BIRTHDAY boy Ricky Walden could not make it back-to-back victories over the greatest player ever to pick up a cue as he crashed out of the Bahrain Championship to Stephen Hendry on Monday night.
The Chester-born ace, who turned 26 on Tuesday, claimed the seven-time world champion’s scalp in the Far East last month on his way to his maiden ranking title success at the Shanghai Masters.
But it was a different story in the Middle East as the world number six produced his best snooker for some time to overcome Walden, ranked 36, 5-3 in a high-quality first-round clash watched by the largest crowd of the inaugural event.
Hendry, who had previously won just one match in the first three ranking tournaments of the season, claimed the opening frame with a run of 60 before Walden, the resident professional at the Chester Snooker Centre on Volunteer Street, took the second and then knocked in a 120 to go ahead.
The Scotsman stormed back with a 139 and 111 before Walden, who has lived in Flintshire all his life, edged a scrappy sixth frame.
But the 39-year-old from Edinburgh regained the lead with a 55 and then dominated the eighth frame to seal his place in the last 16.
Hendry said: “It was high quality all the way through and probably the best I’ve played this season, although I’ve not had much to judge it against.
“Ricky is one of the form players at the moment so it was a tough draw.
“It was nice to have a crowd and I hope that word of mouth goes around because we want people to come and support snooker.”
Walden, known as the Bagillt Bombshell, has risen to 18th in the provisional world rankings and returns to action later this month at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield to attempt to qualify for The Masters.
He has been drawn against Dutchman Stefan Mazrocis in the first round.