Stephen Hendry has always struck me as being rather shy. We are still to find out if he is also retiring.

His 13-4 defeat to Mark Selby today had the feeling of being the end of an era. If he does carry on - and he is yet to fully decide - there is certainly no guarantee he will be back at the Crucible next year.

The discussion over his top 16 place is something of a red herring because he has already declared he won't be playing in the PTCs next season, so he will fall out soon enough under the new ranking system.

I can't see this golf lover forsaking the fairways of Gleneagles for the practice table during the summer with any great enthusiasm as the new season makes an early start.

He doesn't need to slog round small tournaments and qualifiers when he knows, deep down, that his game is not going to return to the heights it hit in the 1990s.

So the end is nigh, if it hasn't already arrived.

Hendry is probably a little nonplussed by the fuss being made. For Stephen, it was never about the acclaim or even the records, just about winning.

He decided at an early age that he would be the best there ever was and set about making that into a reality.

Hendry has struggled for consistent form in recent seasons but can walk away with his head held high.

"Hendry is the greatest snooker player of all time, no doubt. Trust me I have played them all," was Ronnie O'Sullivan's view on Twitter, a gracious and heartfelt tribute to a rival.

Hendry, though, does not just want to turn up at tournaments to be applauded. That isn't him.

It's telling that he considers his greatest performance at the Crucible not to be his first world title or even his seventh, not his comeback against Jimmy White in 1992 or deciding frame win in 1994, but his 18-5 demolition of White in 1993.

Hendry won without mercy or sympathy the way all great champions in any sport do.

Retirement is a difficult decision, particularly as he is only 42. Terry Griffiths is the only top player to retire while still high in the rankings.

Terry did so in 1996 after dropping out of the top 16 but entered the World Championship the following year and qualified before losing 10-9 to a young Mark Williams.

With the new ranking system that option isn't really realistic for Hendry. I'm sure he would shy away from a sympathy wildcard at the Masters or any notion of receiving the kind of send off most will feel he deserves.

In his own head he doesn't need it: he proved he was the best on the table and that is enough for him.


Anonymous said...

many a time ive sat al day watching him play in the club.

it will be a sad day, though it will be whenever it happens....

long live king hendo

Bryn said...

There is a great irony in the extended snooker season that Mr Hearn has brought being a factor in Stephen's decision. But Stephen has been open and honest about his thoughts and there is no suggestion whatsoever of criticism of the many opportunities players now have. No doubt if this is the end Stephen will wait until after the championship as he would never want to deflect from the championship.
Stephen was not only a great player, probably indeed the greatest ever, but not once, do I ever remember him being anything but the ultimate professional.
I know we all wish him well whatever he decides.

Anonymous said...

nice piece Dave and i think your right unlike say jimmy Stephen wont accept wild cards if he feels he don't deserve them in the same way he did not enter the seniors while hes still a top player.

John Higgins summed it up on the beeb when he said the difference between Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry is. Steve Davis loves the Sport where as Stephen Hendry loves winning.

Kirby Reed, Snooker Legend To Be said...

Hendry was good, and now he's crap. Get over it. New Generation, New Rules! (SCRE4M) Every snooker player is soooooooooooooooo BORING to watch these days apart from O'Sullivan. I just get so bored waiting for them to take there shots. It's like, "Hurry up and take the shot man!!!!!!!!!!!!" Once I become a pro I'll show you how it's done. Snooker is losing popularity because of the fact that there is no character to the players. O'Sullivan is the only player who has flare. My name is Kirby Reed. You will become very much aware of my name within the next few years. Kirby Reed, snooker legend to be.

Anonymous said...

You sure your name's not Kirby Weed u sound like a right dope!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kirby and in answer to your next question yeah I will have fries with that

Anonymous said...

Kirby I'll offer you 1,000,000/1 that you ever even get on the circuit, as you obviously know very little about the game.

Dzierzgul said...

Great post, Dave.

Even if Hendry retires, he indeed remains what he always wanted to be: a winner. His achievements in snooker are tremendous.

I remember an interview of his from couple of years ago; he quoted Tiger Woods and said that there isn't really such a thing as 'the greatest sportsman in a given discipline', because people will always disagree. The real success is, he said, that everytime someone has a conversation about the greatest sportsman in your discipline, your name comes up. And so, even if there certainly is a Team Ronnie, Team Davis, Team Alex Higgins etc. Hendry will be talked about in discussions on best snooker players for decades to come. Can't top that!

Of course, I wouldn't like him to retire. Maybe seeking advice with sport psychologist would help him. Maybe if he practiced more and practiced with other players. Today he didn't rule out taking part in some EPTC's where there's an audience - so there's hope. And I believe that, with some hard work, he can have at least one more ranking win inside him. Speaking as a snooker fan, nothing would make me happier than seeing Hendry taking another title.

However, should he retire, I believe that WPBSA ought to organise a special tribute ceremony, celebrating his life achievements. With old film clips, beginning with them awful shoes he wore at Junior Pot Black. With participation and speaches from other players and former opponents. With mentions of his greatest wins (well, a strict selection would be needed, otherwise it could go all night). With someone reading a list of all his records (and a loooong list that would be). I agree that for Hendry it was always about winning, but still he deserves something more and his retirement should be marked by some event. It would be great pity if he simply faded away. Snooker must celebrate its greatest players (and I believe one day we could see a similar event for Davis) - sure, there would be some sentimentality and tear-jerking, but still in my opinion it is much needed.

Anonymous said...

Hendry has paid the 'price' of being an early developer. He was one of the best players in the world when he was only 17, and then dominated the game throughout his twenties. He played with such intensity during this period that he simply burnt out. He's not too old to win tournaments in theory but he used up all his mental reserves a long time ago. Sportspeople who are late developers (like Martin Adams in darts)or those who's intensity waxes and wanes (like Ronnie O'Sullivan) enjoy much longer careers because they've still got some gas in the tank.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6.36 totally agree with you there mate.


Hi David. I bet Stephen Hendry was tense as he watched the result of the Ding .v. Bingham game. As I was. This the game in which, If Ding won, hendry was still in the top 16, if bingham won, Hendry was out of the top 16.

From 9-7 to bingham, It went to 11-9 and then, 12-9 to Bingham. Ding , with great building, as the foundation, Ding levelled at 12 all.

In the decider, both held the advantage, at different times. Bingham laid a great snookers. From there, ding played a great escape when snookered behind the black. Ding got a snooker, from which, bingham failed to escape successfully. From this bad run of the ball for Bingham, Ding did enough to leave Bingham needing snookers. After this, Ding, eventually, did the needful, to win the frame and match by 13 frames to 12, in a classic. Hard luck to Bingham, Well done to Ding. Hendry relieved, and still in the top 16.

Whatever Hendry decides, I wish to thank him for all he has done, and continues to do, for the games of snooker. No Disrespct meant to Bingham, but the fact that Hendry is still in the top 16, may well give Hendry more of a reason to carry on as a proffessional player. I hope he Does. The most successful player in the game, in the modern era. Hendry will always be a LEGEND.

Anonymous said...

It will be sad to see Hendry go, although he won't be badly missed, unlike the players of yesteryear. These guys were real characters - Higgins, Stevens, Thornburn, Charlton. There's just been no-one to replace these greats over the last 20 years.

jamie brannon said...

I agree that Hendry won't want any sympathy. And all these people saying it is sad that he retires are wrong.

They wouldn't be if he was still capable of winning tournaments. What is sad, though, is seeing this legend of the green baize delivering performances not befitting of his status as the greatest ever.

Have to say, Hendry was pleased about one record - the seventh world title in 1999, that was a burning ambition of his. Not sure if any other records bothered him.

jamie brannon said...

Dave, I apologise if I have misunderstood what you were saying, as thinking you maybe meant they are playing the game better than Hendry now.

As having read you for a number of years and in particular your thoughts I can't believe you would think they are playing better than in his prime. One or two like Higgins and O'Sullivan could be on a par and the odd performance by other players, too.

However, Hendry at his peak could have beaten anyone.

Anonymous said...

would have jamie, not could

Anonymous said...

Any player at their best would beat anyone. Dont know what all the fuss is about Hendry. Hes been rubbish for years now. If he was starting out now hed be lucky to win one, never mind 7 world titles.

Anonymous said...

if if if

if your aunt had testcles she would be your uncle.

ifs are useless in the cold light of day

Anonymous said...

Thank you Stephen,thank you for all the memories and enjoyment you have given since the first time I saw you play nearly 15 years ago. you are the greatest sportsman I have ever seen and the ultimate professional. Ronnie O'Sullivan once said "he's the perfect role model for all us snooker players". I disagree. He is the perfect role model for us all. He is my idol.