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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 02:47 GMT
Stevens comes out of the shadows
Matthew Stevens
Stevens finally overcame his snooker bogey on Sunday
Ever since 1998, when he was named the World Snooker Association's Young Player of the Year, it was always a matter of when, not if, Matthew Stevens was going to take the sport by storm.

And on Sunday that was finally realised when the Welshman produced a stunning display to beat Stephen Hendry to the UK Championship.

Prior to the final, all the talk had been about how the 26-year-old was the finest player not to win a world ranking event.

Even his opponent Hendry had this week confessed his surprise at Stevens' failure to overcome that hurdle.

And no one was more relieved than Stevens to finally get rid of such an unwanted tag.

He explained: "Every time I went into a press conference, I had to answer the question why I had never won a ranking tournament before. Now I don't need to."

Despite that, he has always been the model of consistency, regularly producing big wins as well as reaching the latter stages of major tournaments.

Born: 11 September 1977
Nationality: Welsh
World ranking: Eighth
Career earnings: 1,220,205
Career best: 2003 UK champion

In 1999 he was runner-up at the UK Championship and was a losing finalist in the 2000 World Championship final as well as reaching the last four in both 2001 and 2002.

Despite Sunday's success, his overwhelming ambition is still to be crowned world champion.

And having sealed his first world ranking event win, that may not be far away from being achieved.

Stevens first took up the game as a six-year-old before moving onto full-size tables three years later at his local club in Carmarthen.

But it was not until a few years later he realised his blossoming talent was something special.

He told this website last year: "I realised I had chance to shine when I started going to the tournaments and was beating 15 and 16-year-olds when I was about 11."

The man to inspire him to taking up the game was his father Morrell, who followed his son throughout the circuit both in his amateur days and after he turned professional in 1994.

But Stevens' world was turned upside down in February 2001 when his father died suddenly.

After winning the UK Championship, Stevens was quick to single out his role model.

He said: "This is my first final since he died and I dedicate this to him."

With me, it has all been upstairs because the ability has always been there
Matthew Stevens

One of the more likeable figures on the circuit, Stevens has earned more than 1m from the game.

He practises four times a day outside of tournaments, most of that at the Terry Griffiths Matchroom in Llanelli, a player he has followed closely on his rise up the world rankings.

His closest friend in the game is Mark Williams, who ironically beat him to his ultimate goal - the world championship - in 2000.

Although only runner-up on that occasion, the ensuing 140,000 cheque was more than enough to buy a Ferrari, similar to Williams' earlier buy, but opting for yellow rather than his countryman's choice of red.

And Stevens admits cars, as well as holidays, are at the top of his shopping list when it comes to parting with his prize money.

His cheques, including Sunday's 84,500 prize, now look likely to be spent on his girlfriend, who is pregnant with the couple's first child.

But at the end of the weekend the father-to-be, however, seemed happier to have overcome a mental challenge than picking up the money.

He concluded: "With me, it has all been upstairs because the ability has always been there.

"Now they can't take my name off the trophy."

UK champion Matthew Stevens
"It's nice to get my first ranking tournament win out the way"

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