Or should I write “Senior” rather than old? Because at 51, he is certainly not old.
Stephen Hendry has accepted a two years invitational tour card. The “King of the Crucible” is back playing on the main tour.
Legendary seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry will take up an invitational tour card to compete on the World Snooker Tour for at least the next two seasons.
Hendry had appeared to have ended his time on the professional circuit, when he retired after the 2012 World Championship. That came at the end of a run to the Crucible quarter-finals, which saw him compile the 11th maximum break of his career along the way.
However, after eight years away, 51-year-old Hendry has taken the decision to return to snooker’s top table. He joins fellow icons Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and James Wattana in being awarded an invitational tour card. It will last a minimum of two seasons and he will accrue ranking prize money in the same way as all other players on the circuit.
Hendry has amassed a phenomenal 36 ranking titles over his career. Only Ronnie O’Sullivan, who claimed his 37th ranking crown at the World Championship last month, has won more. Hendry’s seven Crucible titles are unparalleled in the sport.
The Scot achieved dominance of snooker during the 1990s. He topped the world rankings for eight consecutive years between 1990 and 1998. Hendry also secured all of his World Championship wins during the decade, the most recent coming in 1999.
Hendry last claimed ranking silverware at the 2005 Malta Cup, when he defeated compatriot Graeme Dott in the final. He most recently topped the world rankings during the 2006/2007 season. Hendry displayed glimpses of what fans can expect upon his return in a run to the semi-finals of the recent World Seniors Championship.
With the Championship League draw having already been made, the first tournament Hendry will be eligible to play in will be the European Masters, which runs from 21st to 27thSeptember.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to enter some tournaments over the coming two seasons,” said 18-time Triple Crown event winner Hendry.
“I’ve really enjoyed picking up my cue again recently at the World Seniors and after some SightRight coaching I feel a little more confident in my game. I’ve always missed the buzz of competing and although I have no expectations in terms of performance, this felt like a good time to explore getting back to the table.”
WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “I am thrilled that Stephen has decided to return to the tour. He is a giant of the sport and I know that all eyes will be on him every time he takes to the table in the coming months.
“It’s great to know that Stephen’s competitive fires are still burning and given his extraordinary achievements, it was a no brainer to offer him the opportunity to come back. I wish Stephen all the very best for the two seasons ahead.”
I’m certain that his recent run at the Seniors World Championship, the form he was able to show at the Crucible during the event, and the support he got from the fans have contributed to Stephen’s decision. Another factor is that, playing on the Main Tour will no more prevent him to play on the Seniors Tour as well. And maybe, seeing Mark Williams and Ronnie winning the World Championship, at 43 and 44 respectively, has prompted him to reconsider. He was only 42 when he retired.
Stephen mentioned the improvement in his game thanks to his work with Sightright as a factor, as well as the enjoyment he got back when playing on the Seniors Tour and the latter is proof that this Seniors Tours is important and necessary. Sportspersons who have entertained us for years deserve better than to be “disregarded” as soon as they are no more deemed “good enough”. And that’s not just about the great champions, it’s about all of them, because no sport lives on its “top exponents” only.
Many, many fans will be thrilled and I’m happy for Stephen. The competitive animal never dies in great champions.