Stephen Hendry has urged his old rival Jimmy White to dismiss thoughts of retirement despite handing the six-time World Championship runner-up another snooker headache on Monday night.
Hendry’s 6-3 win in their first qualifying-round clash will more than likely leave the 58-year-old White needing to win at Q School or accept an expected wild-card offer in order to avoid dropping off the professional tour.
White said he was unsure over his future plans in the wake of a performance he described as “horrendous”, but Hendry maintained: “I think Jimmy should keep playing – he loves the game so much.
“When I retired, I faced the fact I couldn’t play. If he can somehow take the pressure off himself and not look at results, not think he can win tournaments, then just go out there and play.”
Hendry is realistic about his own chances of success as he prepares to continue his comeback in the second qualifying round against China’s Xu Si on Wednesday night – the second of four games he would have to win in order to return to the Crucible.
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.
“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 his sorry opponent, who missed a succession of chances to swing the match in his favour.
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.”