Lee puts on one-man show

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 July, 1999, 12:00am

Englishman Stephen Lee reduced seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry and world number three Ronnie O'Sullivan to the role of spectators as he romped to victory in the Cable TV International Millennium Cup final yesterday.

It was a virtual one-man show by world number six Lee in front of hundreds of fans at the Regent Hotel in Kowloon.

The 24-year-old scored his first win over Scotsman Hendry, 6-1, in the semi-final. And he maintained his great form to overcome O'Sullivan 7-2 in the best-of-13 frames final and lift the trophy. He also collected the winner's prize money of GBP50,000.

'It's a good feeling - especially against Hendry. I played quite solid against and against Ronnie, too. I am over the moon,' Lee said.

His main target this year is to defend his British Grand Prix title - his first.

Lee said the key to his victory was that he adopted a pressure-free frame of mind going into the invitation tournament.

'I have been cued down [after last season wound up in May]. I played good because I am relaxed. I didn't expect anything from myself. I just picked up the cue last week and came here to pick up the trophy and the champagne, beating people like Marco [Fu Kar-chun], Stephen and Ronnie.

'I had been quite busy as my girlfriend had a baby girl three weeks ago and I have had broken sleep,' he added.

Lee played down his win over Hendry, saying: 'It's nice to beat the seven-time world champion but it is just an invitation event.

'I would have been jumping up and down if it were a ranking tournament. The scoreline doesn't mean anything.' The weird format saw Lee take only one-and-a-half hour's rest after the semi-final before he took on O'Sullivan.

'The first match started at 2 pm and finished at 4:20 pm,' said Lee. 'I went back for a shower and came back to play. It would have been harder if Stephen had taken a couple of the open frames. I would have been under pressure in the final. I am very tired today.' Having reached his highest ranking and captured his first title last season, Lee is looking forward to reaching new heights.

'That's a good start. The new season is around the corner back home . . . about a month away. I want to get home and put in some practice,' said Lee, who will kick start the new season in the Champions' Cup.

The road ahead is not easy for him, however.

'I am struggling against [world number one] John Higgins at the moment. You've got everybody there. They are all great players and have been around for a long time. It's hard. I'll play every tournament as it comes.' O'Sullivan, meanwhile, said he was disappointed at not being able to play to the best of his ability.

'I made too many unforced errors that cost me the match. I just hope to move on to the next one. When I was sitting there, I just thought if I would have a couple of chances to get back but it just never happened,' he said.

In the final, Lee quickly shot into a 5-0 lead with breaks of 57, 61, 60, 53 in the first four frames. Although O'Sullivan kept his chances alive by taking the sixth and eighth frames, Lee wrapped up his victory with his highest break of the night, an 84, in the ninth frame.