What Next For Stephen Hendry After Downbeat Start To New Wildcard Season?

The seven-time world champ has struggled in his opening cracks at qualifiers
08:00, 11 Aug 2022

Stephen Hendry received a new two-year wildcard at the beginning of this season – but the current campaign has begun in a similar, downbeat vein to the anti-climactic past two years. 

Seven-time world champion Hendry, who saw that cherished record equalled by Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible Theatre in May, surprised many by announcing at the end of March that he would play on and continue a comeback that began in 2020 after eight years retired. 

The results and performances from the 53-year-old Scot had been poor and his participation limited, culminating in Hendry’s decision not even to enter the World Championship qualifiers – something that raised eyebrows, since getting back to the Crucible in Sheffield was given as one of the main motivators for returning to the sport in the first place.


There were even complaints from fellow players and debate elsewhere as to whether, despite his snooker royalty status, Hendry merited another wildcard for two more years when arguably others off the tour – though without a hundredth of the news value and fan-drawing power – would have made far more use of it. 

But while being a pundit for ITV at the Tour Championship at Llandudno, Hendry clearly indicated live on television: “I intend to play…it is not over yet, and there is still a little bit of fire in the belly.”

That led to a renewed wildcard, though it came with something between a caveat and a warning that the authorities would like to see more tournaments entered in return for the privilege.  

However Hendry’s impact on the 2022-23 season to date has been a 5-0 defeat to Walsall’s Mark Joyce in the first round of the European Masters, a 4-1 loss to Chinese journeyman Zhang Anda at the British Open qualifiers, and a withdrawal from the Northern Ireland Open before the qualifiers have even begun.

His next action on tour could be the Scottish Open qualifiers in the Chase Leisure Centre in Cannock in the Black Country, though it is possible Hendry’s match could be held over for the main venue crowd at the Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh.  

Hendry came back working with Steve Feeney of the SightRight organisation, who has had success with his sighting and alignment coaching techniques, including helping Mark Williams to an unexpected third world title after the Welshman came very close to packing the game in.

But the “fire in the belly” of which Hendry spoke in late March appeared to have gone missing as he arrived in Wigan ahead of a match at the Robin Park Leisure Centre in front of no fans in the second week of August. 

Speaking on his Instagram account ahead of the match, there was plenty of irony as he said: “Another glamorous venue on my comeback, as it were, this time we’re in Wigan at the Robin Park Leisure Centre, playing Zhang Anda in the British Open. Nice drive up the M6 last night, stayed at the Premier Inn, McDonald's at 11 o’clock. Living the dream, folks, living the dream in Wigan. 1 o’clock, hopefully be in the car by 3.” 

And afterwards he added: “Okay we’re making progress, I’ve won a frame. Lost 4-1 to Zhang Anda, had a 54 break in the frame I won. Felt a bit more comfortable out there. Safety errors again, schoolboy errors with safety was very poor. The table was beautiful again, trying to get used to these tables, they’re stunning to play on. But yeah, it’s not easy. Listen, it’s not the most exciting thing to go out there and play in front of no people and play these matches, but it’s what I’ve got to do, it’s where I am.” 

Hendry has the use of a club table in Reading and is believed to have installed one closer to his Berkshire home, but golf is now a huge love and the membership at Sunningdale, one of the UK’s top clubs with a superb choice of courses, is thought to be getting plenty of use.  

As well as the Scottish Open qualifiers in Cannock, Hendry could before Christmas play in the English Open qualifiers in Leicester ahead of the tournament in its new home of Brentwood, and the UK Championship preliminaries in Sheffield ahead of the first major of the season in York. 

But the winner of 36 ranking titles in front of ecstatic crowds, including those seven triumphs on snooker’s biggest stage, must be occasionally left wondering…is this all really worth it?


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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