Stephen Hendry fears Ronnie O'Sullivan will finally go past his most cherished record at the Crucible this year.
And the seven-times world champion admits that despite his huge admiration for the Rocket that it would be through gritted teeth in the BBC commentary box.
World No1 O’Sullivan equalled the Scot’s world title tally 12 months ago with a hugely emotional final victory over Judd Trump.
And in many eyes, given all his other titles, achievements and longevity, that settled the argument for the ‘greatest of all time’ in favour of O’Sullivan.
There is no bigger O’Sullivan fan than Hendry, 54 – and he is backing his long-time rival to handle the intense pressure and spotlight in Sheffield and set a mark of eight that may never be matched.
Hendry saw his own Crucible dream ended in the qualifiers this week by nephew James Cahill – but plans to carry on playing on the second and final year of his latest wildcard next season.
He said: “If Ronnie wins it, it would be amazing because he’s taken the game to another level.
“He’s an absolute legend. Of course I’m not happy if he gets the record. I’m clinging onto these records for grim death!
“But I honestly can’t see anyone stopping him. I don’t see anyone playing well enough out there at the moment.
“Obviously Ronnie’s not showing the form this season that he would like going into the Crucible, but I don’t think it matters for him. I think he just switches on there.
“Don’t get me wrong there will be pressure on him, but he’s got a huge incentive to do it and I think he will.
“I wasn’t even due to be working for the BBC last year at the end of the world championship, but they got me out and found me with the camera when he’d won his seventh.
“I’ll be guaranteed to be as close as anyone, I’ll have a ringside seat.”
Meanwhile the 1997 world champion Ken Doherty is delighted that Hendry is to remain on the circuit – as he has been having the best of their money practice games in recent months.
Doherty said: “That’s good news that he’s going to carry on because I need a practice partner and I need the money off him as well. I’m delighted he’s going to stay on for another little while yet.”
Doherty is still chasing a first Crucible appearance for nine years – and plays Hammad Miah on Friday.
But the 53-year-old, also on the second year of a two-year wildcard, admits the slog of the circuit could mean next season will be his last.
Doherty said: “If I qualified one more time for the Crucible then I think that would be a good time to go.
“I’d love to walk out there again. The last time I qualified I got down and kissed the carpet, it was quite emotional.
“Doing the whole year is really difficult. I think I’m getting to the stage where I’m thinking to myself ‘is it worth it?’
“When I was sitting in the chair in the first qualifier against Reanne Evans I was thinking whether it was worth it anymore and if I’d be happier just having an easy life and talking snooker with commentating.
“I was looking at Stephen on the next table and thinking ‘how did it ever come to this?’!
“Twenty six years ago we were playing in the world final and here the two of us are playing next to each other in qualifying and struggling, struggling like poor farmers.
“I still absolutely still love the game. I made a 147 against Jamie Clarke in practice and it was like being a kid again.
“It still gives me a great buzz, but there comes a time when it becomes more painful. It’s frustrating that you can’t do the things that you used to do.
“I have another year so I’ll stick it out and if I don’t see any improvement then I think it might be time to say cheerio.”
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