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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 17:47 GMT
Winning the hard way
Paul Hunter lifts the B&H Masters title
Hunter - making the most of his talent at last
BBC Sport's Clive Everton says Jimmy White still has plenty to offer snooker.

Paul Hunter's dramatic 10-9 win over Mark Williams in the final of the B&H Masters makes him the first player since Stephen Hendry to retain the title.

The 23-year-old Yorkshireman did it the hard way.

It took him just over four hours to beat Peter Ebdon 6-5 in the quarter-finals and just under four to defeat Alan McManus 6-5 in the semis.


It gives me tremendous self belief
Paul Hunter

He was 5-0 down to Williams in an enthralling contest of five hours 32 minutes in which he remained fresh and confident enough to make decisive breaks of 72 and 65 in the last two frames.

"It gives me tremendous self belief," said Hunter, contemplating the rest of the season.

There follows back-to back world ranking events in Shanghai and Bangkok and reaches its climax with the Embassy World championship on BBC TV on 20 April-6 May.

Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis and Alex Higgins are the only players in the event's 28 year history to have won it more than once.

Hunter has always had flair and fluency but recently it has been his coolness towards the end of close matches, which has caught the eye.

For snooker often starts to seem a different game when winning or losing becomes the immediate issue.

He likes to enjoy himself.


He's got the game and he's got the temperament
Stephen Hendry on Hunter

Early in his professional career, during a lengthy stay in Blackpool for a qualifying school, he landed in disciplinary hot water with a midnight streak along the promenade.

Four years ago he forfeited prize money and ranking points when he tested positive for marijuana, which is not considered performance-enhancing but is on the banned list nevertheless.

When he was only 17, he led Hendry 5-3 overnight before losing their UK quarter-final 9-5.

"He's got the game and he's got the temperament," was Hendry's verdict.

That was the year in which he became - as he remains - the youngest ever world ranking tournament semi-finalist and won that event, the Regal Welsh open, when he was 19.

At the end of last month, he won it again.

For a couple of years, he tended to overdo the late night carousing and underestimated how much he needed to practice to make further progress.

But, virtually out of the blue, he won the Masters last year beating Hendry in the semis and Fergal O'Brien, from 7-3 down, 10-9 in the final.

Hunter cheerfully admitted that he had spent the interval between afternoon and evening session's lovemaking with his girlfriend.


Defeat is invariably disappointing but especially hard to take after being a long way in front.
Clive Everton on Mark Williams

In turning impending defeat into victory, he made four centuries in six frames.

Down 5-3 to Williams at the interval on Sunday, Hunter repeated last year's tactic.

"I did exactly the same again. It seems to work."

Defeat is invariably disappointing but especially hard to take after being a long way in front.

Mike Hallett led Hendry 7-0 and 8-2 in their 1991 Masters final and not only lost 9-8 but found that his house had been burgled during the match.

For Williams to lose 10-9 from 5-0 up was not quite on that scale, but even so, it was a blow, because the 2000 World champion, despite reaching four finals and six semis, has not won a title for 16 months.

"I'm sick. I've been hammered in a few finals but I've thrown his one away," said Williams.

"A defeat like this could send me back to square one. I've got to try to put it out of my mind but it'll be tough."


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