Stephen Hendry once vowed to retire at 30. He’s now 37 and still going strong.

Then again, he was in his early 20s when he made his claim and 30 must have seemed a long way off.

Hendry, the most successful player in snooker history, is back as world no.1 in the rankings eight years after relinquishing pole position. Remarkably, it is 16 years since he first secured top spot.

The Scot has won seven Crucible titles, five UK Championships, six Wembley Masters crowns and a total of 36 ranking event trophies – eight more than nearest challenger Steve Davis.

He has compiled more centuries than any other player – close to 700 – and has amassed over £8m in prize money.

On the face of it, he’s done it all and could, in theory, retire happily. But what would be the point if he still believes he can provide a significant challenge to his younger rivals?

I don’t think Hendry is the player he was in the early to mid 1990s, when he was quite simply the best the game has ever seen. He took snooker to a different level and his commitment and total self belief were to be admired.

There’s few in the game who didn’t wish Jimmy White had won at least one of their four world finals but Hendry was there to do his job and did so with considerable authority.

Not everyone took to him. They mistook his innate shyness for aloofness and contrasted his quiet determination with White's natural ebullience.

An edge has gone from Hendry’s game, though on his day he is still a force to be reckoned with. I think it is chiefly his concentration that is the problem. He never enjoyed safety, preferring to attack, but now seems completely unwilling to engage in the tactical side of the game.

He misses the odd pot here and there that would have been unthinkable 10-15 years ago and is a less frequent visitor to the game’s winner’s circle as a result.

All this is inevitable. It happened to Steve Davis as he got older. It happens to all players.

However, I wouldn’t back against Hendry collecting further silverware. All he needs is a week in which everything goes right again. At his best, he is still one of the very best.

Retirement at 30 didn’t happen. I’d bet on him being around long after he turns 40.

1 comment:

Andy said...

My favourite player.

I dont like your friend Clive Everton commentating on his matches though.
Only opens his mouth when Hendry makes a mistake it seems.

Everton is the best commentator in Snooker, and I like his commentary, just not when Hendry's playing... especially when he's not in form.