Stehen Hendry comeback: What's next? Will he qualify for World Championships at Crucible? How many centuries does he have?

Stephen Hendry’s much-anticipated return to the professional tour ended in a 4-1 defeat to Matthew Selt in the first round of the Gibraltar Open on Tuesday.

By Ross Gregory
Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 3:05 pm
Seven-time world snooker champion Stephen Hendry made a century in his comeback game which ended in a 4-1 defeat.
Seven-time world snooker champion Stephen Hendry made a century in his comeback game which ended in a 4-1 defeat.

The 52-year-old will now turn his attention to attempting to qualify for the World Championship, which starts at the Crucible in Sheffield next month.

Here we assess the seven-time world champion’s chances of success on the basis of his comeback performance in Milton Keynes.

How did Stephen Hendry fare in his comeback?

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Despite his defeat, it is fair to say Hendry performed to a higher standard than had been expected, culminating in his superb 107 break to briefly draw level in the second frame. Selt, a former ranking event winner and currently the world number 35, did very little wrong, and Hendry did enough to suggest he could have pushed a lesser opponent much closer.

What does he need to improve?

By his own admission, Hendry needs to tighten up his safety game, which is something he tended to disregard even in his prime. He left Selt a series of long pots which his opponent ruthlessly exploited. Hendry also struggled to keep the cue ball under control, suggesting he needs time to come to terms with the slicker, match-table cloths. He said: My safety has to be tighter and my long game has to be better – it’s not ready yet to qualify for the Crucible.”

How many career centuries does Stephen Hendry have?

Hendry’s 107 in the second frame against Selt was his 776th career century. He now claims that he is now targeting 800 career centuries. Hendry is fourth on the all-time list behind Judd Trump (780), John Higgins (833) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (1,033).

What’s next for Hendry?

His claim about reaching 800 centuries suggests he intends to make full use of his two-year tour card. His next event will be the World Championship qualifiers in Sheffield next month. He will have to fight through four qualifying rounds in order to reach the Crucible for the first time since 2012.

And will he make it?

After his performance against Selt, he will perhaps not be so swiftly written off. But it is a mighty ask to come through four long matches – at least two of which will involve facing opponents of or even better than Selt’s calibre. For context, Hendry’s old rival Jimmy White, who beat the Scot in last year’s World Seniors Championship, has tried and failed to qualify for each of the last 14 years.

Selt conceded his surprise at the level of his friend’s performance in their game admitting: “I wouldn’t have given him a hope of qualifying for the Crucible coming into this, but he has clearly proved he can get there, for sure.

“He has the one thing that I don’t have and lot of others don’t have – unbelievable amounts of bottle, and he has won everything in the game.

“When the opportunity presents itself, he will take it, whether it’s to win a match or get to the Crucible."