Stephen Hendry’s 2012 World Championship started with a maximum and ended with a 13-2 drubbing to Stephen Maguire and his retirement from tournament snooker.
This was a typically newsworthy tournament for Hendry, who at 43 has taken the decision to put away his cue for good.
He is still better than most players on the circuit but not good enough by his own imperious standards.
All the plaudits and accolades coming his way tonight are heartfelt and well deserved but Hendry doesn’t need them. He has his unparalleled record of success to reflect on.
It was a surprise, spur of the moment Christmas present from his parents in 1982 which set the ball rolling for a remarkable career.
You don’t need me to recount the wins and the moments which have defined an entire snooker era.
Suffice to say that Hendry can walk away from his playing career with his head held high as the player whose achievements all others are still aiming for.
He was a truly driven individual who never allowed himself to get comfortable. Once he won a tournament he targeted the next one.
He once won five ranking events in succession. He was a relentless scoring machine who pioneered the modern, attacking era in which we now live.
As a man he has always been something of an enigma. It wasn’t only on the table where he kept his emotions hidden.
I’ve seen him rendered speechless by defeat but in his dealings with the media and in his role as a snooker legend he has been a great ambassador for the sport.
Like Steve Davis before him he has made the sacrifices necessary to be the best. Unlike Davis, though, he isn’t in love with playing but winning.
He has decided that he can no longer consistently produce a standard with which he is happy. His retirement is therefore understandable if regrettable. In many ways it is admirable. He is a realist. He has accepted his fate.
Ask any snooker player of the last 20 years and they will have nothing but respect for Hendry. His achievements will stand in time.
Good luck to him in the future. He will be working in China, will doubtless do BBC commentary and undertake exhibitions.
But there’s nothing like the visceral thrill of playing. And Stephen Hendry has thrilled many of us over the years with his talent, his guts, his uncompromising game.
He has chosen not to rage against the dying of the light by slogging around qualifiers but to make a typically dignified, unfussy exit from the stage he once owned.
This is surely the final triumph of the game’s greatest champion.