BBC commentator Steve Davis believes fellow green baize legend Stephen Hendry should be remembered as a worldwide sporting hero.
Seven-time world champion Hendry retired on Tuesday night having won an unprecedented seven Crucible crowns and more major titles than any other player to have picked up a cue.
And Davis, a six-time Crucible winner, is adamant it will be “impossible” for any player to eclipse the Scot’s staggering achievements in the sport.
“Stephen deserves to be remembered as a worldwide sporting hero,” said Davis. “And the game is truly worldwide now - and as export he’s been pretty amazing.
“I don’t think there’s anyone comparable to Stephen - and comparable in the UK as well.
“I can’t see anyone close to Stephen’s world titles - and that’s no disrespect to Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins who are best-placed to get close.
“I really can’t see anyone else coming along and doing what he did, he would have to be some type of player.
“Stephen is the Tiger Woods of snooker or the Roger Federer of tennis in his pomp. When he was producing, he was unstoppable.
“He was such a dominant force in the sport.
“It’s impossible for anyone to emulate what Stephen has achieved. It would have been really hard even though there has been a swath of dangerous players coming through.”
Five former world champions formed a special guard of honour at the Crucible yesterday to honour Hendry’s achievements. Davis, Ken Doherty, Dennis Taylor, Terry Griffiths and John Parrott all lined-up to salute the sport’s most successful player before the start of the afternoon matches.
Hendry, who won five world titles in a row between 1992-1996, was greeted to a rapturous standing ovation by a capacity crowd and his fellow players. It was a touching moment for the 43-year-old who has made the treasured Crucible arena his own during his unparalleled 27-year-career.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn admitted the growing number of tournaments on tour had forced Hendry to quit, saying: “In many ways I suppose I’ve retired Stephen Hendry, which I don’t feel proud of. But this sport is much more important than an individual.”
Hearn added: “Steve Davis should have had a knighthood 10 years ago, and I think Stephen Hendry for his contribution to the game is right up there as well.
“In my opinion those two feature far above many previous recipients.”
On the table two-time Crucible finalist Matthew Stevens staged a remarkable comeback to secure his semi-final place.
Welshman Stevens was 5-2 down at one stage to compatriot Ryan Day, but strung together an impressive run of winning 11 frames in succession for a fine victory.
Compatriot Day was left shell-shocked as Stevens dominated, although surprisingly the 2000 and 2005 world finalist managed to only compile two half century breaks in the entire match.
Fans favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from 5-3 down to defeat Australian ace Neil Robertson 13-10 last night.
Results: Matthew Stevens beat Ryan Day 13-5, Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Neil Robertson 13-10, Ali Carter beat Jamie Jones 13-11.
Today’s schedule, semi-finals (best-of-33 frames): 1pm, Stephen Maguire (Scot) v Carter (Eng); 7pm: O’Sullivan (Eng) or v Stevens (Wal) - both maximum of eight frames.