My game isn’t ready – Stephen Hendry doesn’t expect to reach Crucible this year

Mark Staniforth, PA
·3-min read

Stephen Hendry has dismissed his chances of returning to the Crucible this year despite sinking old foe Jimmy White to reach the second round of the World Championship qualifying tournament on Monday.

The 52-year-old will resume his unlikely quest against China’s Xu Si on Wednesday night, with three further hurdles to overcome if he is to book his place back at the scene of his record seven titles.

But after his arduous 6-3 win over White, Hendry admitted: “On this evidence, my game isn’t ready. I think next year I would be more realistic about my chances.

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“In the next round I could play a lot better but I don’t think my game is ready to win four tough matches to get to the Crucible yet.

“Hopefully if I can keep getting better and keep improving, my technique becomes reliable and I can get to a better pace, then next year will be the goal to get back to the Crucible.”

It was a candid admission of his shortcomings by the Scot, in what was only his second professional match since he returned after a nine-year absence with defeat to Matthew Selt in the first round of the Gibraltar Open last month.

Hendry’s undoubted high point was a 66 clearance in the sixth frame which was reminiscent of the dominant days when he used to torment White, who now faces a decision about continuing on the tour following his latest sorry display.

Other results this week are likely to leave White needing to go to Q School or else rely on a likely wild-card from World Snooker Tour chiefs, but the 56-year-old, who described his display as “horrendous” is unsure whether he will take up the offer.

“He (Hendry) knew I was struggling,” shrugged White. “All he had to do was pick me off. I was all over the office. He did what he had to do. He’s playing better than that and can improve – unfortunately for me, I can’t.”

Snooker – williamhill.com UK Championships – Day Three – The Barbican Centre
Jimmy White is considering his future after his latest loss (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Hendry stands a reasonable chance against world number 82 Xu – ranked, after all, only one place above White in the current rankings – but would face an immense task in round three against the qualifying top seed Zhou Yuelong.

Hendry added: “I will be a huge underdog whoever I play in this qualifying. I have just got to enjoy the process of getting my game back to somewhere where I think I can win matches.

“It was nice to win in my second match out. There will be doubters out there who will say it was Jimmy White, who has not won many matches, but I don’t care, I know how good Jimmy is.

“I will try to keep expectations low, (but) the animal that I am, if I start to get form, then the expectations will rise. At the moment it is about trying to get back to playing some good snooker.”