It’s easy to see the Stephen Hendry-Jimmy White rivalry defined by their meetings at the Crucible but these matches only comprise seven of the 56 they have played as professionals.
Their first contest came at the 1986 Scottish Masters, when Hendry was just 17. White won 5-1 but it wasn’t long before his young opponent improved to such a level that he became the man to beat.
Surprisingly, they’ve only met in two finals outside of the World Championship, and White won them both.
The first of these was over the best of 35 distance used at the Crucible. Barry Hearn promoted a World Matchplay Championship screened on ITV shortly before Christmas and White beat Hendry 18-9 to win the title in 1990.
A few weeks later he stormed 9-0 ahead of Hendry in the final of the Mercantile Classic, eventually beating him 10-4.
They’ve played seven times at the Wembley Masters with Hendry enjoying the clear edge, winning six of them.
He also has a handsome lead in ranking events, winning 12 meetings to White’s six.
Hendry leads 33-18 overall with five draws in the Premier League, but to have beaten the game’s greatest ever player 18 times is no mean feat and White comes into their latest meeting at the 12bet.com UK Championship today full of confidence after three good qualifying wins and victory in the World Seniors Championship.
If White wins there’s a chance Hendry will drop out of the elite top 16, although this is unlikely.
Neither player is as good as they once were and they will have to play very well indeed to match the remarkable standard seen yesterday in which there were 17 century breaks recorded.
There was a brilliant session of snooker between John Higgins and Stephen Lee, which ended 4-4. It was the best I’ve seen Lee play on TV for years.
Ding Junhui was very solid in pulling away from Matthew Stevens, even if he did stutter a little before getting over the winning line.
Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and Mark Allen all performed strongly in coming through their respective matches.
Neil Robertson made two centuries during a lengthy first session against the methodical Rory Mcleod, opening a 7-1 advantage overnight.
So already after just one day the cream is rising to the top in Telford.
And what all this proves is that if the players play regularly they remain sharp and standards thus rise, a point missed by those who have derided the PTC series, which has proved to be a positive for the game as a whole.
All the smaller events have also done the majors a favour because their prestige is even more apparent, hence the huge anticipation within the sport that there has been for this year’s UK Championship.
The only disappointing note was the low crowds, although this is in large part due to the adverse weather conditions afflicting the UK.
I’d expect them to pick up today for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s entrance against Stuart Bingham and, of course, Hendry v White.