Stephen Hendry’s mental strength still too much for Jimmy White in World Snooker Championship qualifier

Jeremy WilsonMon, 5 April 2021, 6:07 pm

Jimmy White watches Stephen Hendry - EUROSPORT
Jimmy White watches Stephen Hendry – EUROSPORT
  • As midnight approached, Hendry finished off White after an entertaining match
  • Hendry will play Xu Si in the second qualifying round

For one frame only, it really was like 1990 all over again. Jimmy White got in and made a fluent 58 break before faltering on a relatively easy red with the frame at his mercy.

Stephen Hendry smelt blood and duly pounced with a ruthless 66 clearance to lead 5-1 en route to an eventual 6-3 victory.

If that sounds like an emphatic and vintage performance on Hendry’s return to the World Championship following nine years in retirement, the wider story was actually rather different.

It was a night when the easiest of pots were repeatedly missable. A night when the simplest of positional shots went agonisingly wrong. And a night when the most routine of safety shots were regularly botched.

In short, having spent most of the 1990s making snooker look ridiculously easy, the sport’s two greatest rivals combined to deliver us the reality.

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White battle to qualify for the World Championship - Allsport
Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White battle to qualify for the World Championship – Allsport

Snooker is actually incredibly difficult. There are a thousand unseen judgements and nuances that can go wrong with every shot. It is just that the viewer rarely noticed any of this when White and Hendry were previously in their pomp.

Just like Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump today, they played with a fluency that could simplify the sport to an extent that almost camouflaged their own prodigious skill.

Not now. Not at the ages of 58 and 52.

The opening two frames of this World Championship first round qualifier took an hour and were ultimately shared after both players nibbled away unconvincingly at half chances. The third was even longer at 45 minutes and won on the black by Hendry after he required a snooker. It was an excruciating and yet still strangely captivating rate of progress.

The occasional good shot was counterbalanced by numerous mistakes and, while Hendry did ultimately find rather more consistency in his break-building, there was little to suggest that either of these two legends will ultimately again return to The Crucible.

Hendry still requires another three qualifying victories to appear in the tournament’s final stages later this month and, bluntly, will now be little feared by any of his future opponents.

Defeat means that White now faces losing his card on World Snooker’s professional tour and is again likely to be in need of an invitation from chairman Barry Hearn.

White’s case deserves to be strengthened by the extraordinary interest in this rematch between two men who famously shared four World Championship finals in the Nineties.

Of course, the actual match was never going to equal the build-up but there is no great need to dwell on the supposed sadness at seeing two revered sportsmen so past their prime. As Steve Davis correctly noted, it is not as if they are two boxers putting their brains on the line. And as long as they are still enjoying themselves, there is a certain beauty in their enduring will to compete.

The more curious case is actually Hendry. Unlike White, he walked away from the sport once he concluded that winning was no longer feasible. He was only 43 — younger than O’Sullivan when he won the sixth of his world titles last year — but had grown to hate the feeling of defeat.

He is even less likely to recapture past glories now and so you can only hope that he will find a new pleasure that he could never previously experience by simply playing snooker.

  • Hendry on comeback: you never lose that desire

It has always been different for White. The old routine has not substantively changed across more than 40 years. Snooker is what he loves. Snooker is what he does and, just like his great mate Alex Higgins, he will surely be battling away on a table for as long as he can lift a cue.

Plenty of people will probably also watch and, while that might prompt unfavourable comparisons with the popularity of those who followed, it actually says most about snooker during a unique era in British sport. An era that, in a diluted form at least, was briefly recreated on Monday night.

10:46 PM

Stephen Hendry beats Jimmy White

He’s into the second qualifying round, small beer in one sense given that he is the game’s greatest ever winner, but on the other hand: coming back after nine years, battling not just his opponent but I’m sure his own sense of what he can and cannot do. But he’s done the job here, and while the snooker itself was poor, there were one or two classic White-Hendry psychological moments and, once again, the iron will of the Scot was just too much for the much-loved Whirlwind. Thanks for following it with us – and goodnight!

10:43 PM

Jimmy White 3 Stephen Hendry 6

Jimmy cannot stop giving him chances. Hendry with a long red, the balls are nicely placed and surely he is not going to need a fourth crack of the whip?

Hendry on the black. 61 ahead. 75 on the table.

Another red, another black and Jimmy is hanging by a thread…

That’s it! Stephen with a black, he’s going to win this, Stephen White is going through. He’s enjoying himself now. He misses a red, but no matter, the shake hands and Stephen Hendry has beaten Jimmy White.

10:39 PM

Frame 9

Stephen makes a 27 but runs aground, but is soon back again. He strides to the table with some purpose. But his attempt to split the pack doesn’t come off. That’s two chances he’s had to wrap things up and manged 41 points from them.

10:34 PM

Jimmy White 3 Stephen Hendry 5

They go again.

10:25 PM

Frame 8 (cont.)

Stephen lays a snooker, Jimmy gets out of it.

And another. Both fairly easy escapes.

Jimmy has a long pot at the pink but misses.

And another. He’s missed that by a mile.

Eventually Jimmy cuts one in.

Jimmy wins the frame and that’s Jimmy 3 Stephen 5

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White battle to qualify for the World Championship - Allsport
Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White battle to qualify for the World Championship – Allsport

10:21 PM

Frame 8 (cont.)

There is one red left, on the top cushion… Jimmy on the pink. Great shot! shifts the red along the cushion and has left himself a thin cut. It’s 46 Jimmy 36 Stephen. Can he cut this in? He can!

Jimmy is onto the colours. He gets a kiss onto the blue. He cannot get the blue.

Stephen pots the blue. He needs a snooker. He won frame 3 after a snooker on pink/black… It’s 59-41 to Jimmy.

10:19 PM

Frame 8 (cont.)

Hendry has a good chance here to win it and inflict yet another psychological blow on poor old Jimmy. BUT he’s missed again. Is it a reprieve, or is it prolonging the agony for Jimmy White and his fans?!

10:15 PM

Frame 8 (cont.)

Both men are edgy. But White produces a nice pot. White looks so tense, down on himself, low. Fighting though. But he cannot get the ball where he wants it, every shot is an uphill struggle. Yep, he’s missed another. Oh Jimmy.

10:11 PM

Frame 8 (cont.)

Jimmy with an excellent opportunity here. Reds well opened up. Jimmy looks nervous. He plays a shot, it goes in, and then he sort of goes back to his chair. Hendry looks at him with some puzzlement. Jimmy is on a red. He mis-cues! Oh that’s a horrible sight. Oh god Jimmy.

He has opened the door for Stephen. But Stephen himself cannot take this chance to win the match.

10:09 PM

Frame 8 (cont.)

Stephen is stuck behind the pink, there are reds all over the table, impossible to see how he can get safe here, Ends up putting the white in the bottom corner pocket without touching anything. Jimmy has a chance. Gets the opening red, but no colour, and instead nestles on the baulk cushion.

10:02 PM

Frame 8

Hendry slots away a long red, but leaves the cue in baulk and has it all to do if he’s going to take on a colour. He lays up… badly.

09:58 PM

Jimmy White 2 Stephen Hendry 5

Stephen needed 2 snookers, got one, and just when Jimmy would have surely been thinking “oh god here we go” but Jimmy then flukes in a yellow and that’s the end of the frame. Stephen had a red there that would probably have been the matchwinner but he didn’t take it, Jimmy wins to keep the match alive.

09:53 PM

Frame 7 cont

Jimmy has left a red over the pocket.. Stephen has fluffed it. Surprising for both men, you sense.

Jimmy with a cute shot now, using the brown to stop the red. But Stephen manages a useful safety.. but messes up his next one…

Jimmy has a gilt-edged chance now. Cannot miss this red. Doesn’t. Onto an easy black. Gets it. But the engine sputters once more.

09:50 PM

Frame 7

An ugly, scrappy little passage of play now where both players trade errors.

Jimmy has 58 in the bank, Stephen has 33 and the cue in his hand.

09:48 PM

Frame 7

Jimmy having to watch Stephen punish his mistakes... - Eurosport
Jimmy having to watch Stephen punish his mistakes… – Eurosport

09:46 PM

Frame 7

Oh Jimmy. Oh flipping flip. He’s played an absolute stinker here, missing everything and smacking the pink. That was proper pub quality.

09:45 PM

Frame 7

Jimmy, as he did in the last frame, goes past his half century. Can he keep going this time though? He tickles in a pink. He’s on a red but there’s another red impeding his cueing…He tries to cut into the corner. He misses! A 58 break in this frame, same as the last frame. Jimmy White is…. 58 years old.

Hendry licks his lips, metaphorically I mean, although who knows, maybe literally as well.

Can he punish Jimmy again?

No, not this time.

09:38 PM

Frame 7

Jimmy at the table, 0-12 down, and an opportunity at a red in the corner. Gets it, onto the black.

09:33 PM

Stephen Hendry is one away

And Jimmy, in what seems a needlessly cruel little sideshow, will lose his tour card if he goes out! Unless Barry Hearn gives him wildcards which, lets face it, he probably will.

09:32 PM

Jimmy Whsite 1 Stephen Hendry 5

Hendry pounces! Jimmy had this frame run but Stephen was lurking in case of a mistake and he’s given himself a really great chance. Jimmy has 62 on the board but Stephen has the table and he’s now got the colours to clear. The action looks better, the control is (something like) there… but most importantly and I think most interestingly, it is when Jimmy was playing his best snooker of the night that Stephen has managed to raise his game. A true champion. A genuine great of British sport. Stephen clears them up and that is another brutal body blow to Jimmy’s chances.

Brilliant from Hendry there. Not the potting or the cue ball control. The match play.

09:24 PM

Frame 6 (cont.)

Jimmy looking a bit more the ticket. The balls are more favourably spread, he’s striking more cleanly, he’s made a half century and he’s still going…

… and bit he’s run aground on 58. He’s missed one. As ever with Jimmy, it’s the hope that kills you. And here’s Stephen £$%^ing Hendry. This isn’t a snooker match, it’s a time machine, as Don Draper might have put it.

09:21 PM

Frame 6

Wonder to what extent the psychological damage Stephen did to Jimmy in the 1990s still holds sway? Jimmy came into this favouite and sharper, looked the better in the first frame (relatively). But losing in the third having looked sure to win it was a bit of a horrible reminder of the bad old days and how much he suffered under the Scotsman’s heel.

Anyway, he has a chance here – and early opportunity with the balls nicely spreadr, colours available….

09:17 PM

Jimmy White 1 Stephen Hendry 4

Jimmy leaves the arena again. Fear for him here.

09:14 PM

Frame 5 (cont.)

There’s no joking, banter or old pals act from these two. It’s grim, gritty, determined stuff – and I don’t mean that as a negative. Anyone thinking this would be an exhibition style stroll down memory lane would be mistaken: the skills may not be what they were but the burning desire to win and the hatred of losing still has not left either man. I find it all quite relatable, more so maybe than the frictionless excellence of the world class players..

The rest has let Jimmy down here and Stephen is in. Stephen has definitely pulled clear here, not just in terms of frames but in quality. He is wrapping this one up and it’s going to be 4-1.

09:11 PM

Frame 5 (cont.)

A contest like this though, you’re never out of it for all that long, it’s not like Jimmy and Stephen in their pomp when one chance would lead to a quickfire clearance. Stephen cannot do much on this visit and Jimmy is soon back in, getting the furniture out to run one down the side cushion and get onto a black at 26-40. This has the feel of the must-win frame.

09:07 PM

Frame 5 (cont.)

Stephen misses one. Jimmy, trailing 3-36, needs to make something happen here. The table is a bit of a mess but the black is on its spot and available. Oh crikey. Jimmy has tries to cut a red into the middle, missed by a street, and gone in off. He looks pretty wretched it pains me to say.

08:59 PM

Frame 5 (cont.)

Jimmy is in the balls but black and pink are both tied up and he cannot really get going.

08:53 PM

Frame 5

Not quite as scrappy as the first couple of frames and the better shots, by and large, are being played by Stephen. Certainly the clangers being dropped are generally being dropped by Jimmy at the moment.

While you’re here, I heartily recommend this tremendous piece by Simon Briggs about the Hendry-White rivalry.

White and Hendry’s first meeting came in Dublin in 1984, where a 15-year-old Hendry was representing Scotland in the World Amateur Championship. White had dropped by for a social and was heading out on the town with his friend Con Dunne. White, from Behind The White Ball: My Autobiography: Young Stephen asked Con to introduce us. He looked at me with awe as he took the hand I held out for him to shake… Stephen went as red as a fire engine.Hendry remembers it differently. Hendry: Jimmy strides up to his mate and… grabs him by the shoulder. “Hang on a minute,” replies his mate, “I’m just talking to Stephen.” Jimmy looks at me for a second. “F— Stephen,” he says, “we need to get going.”

08:46 PM

Frame 5

Hendry has a red and a colour but cannot split the pack. Over to you, Jimmy.

08:44 PM

The players are back out

Jimmy to break… and it’s not a good one. Oh dear Jimmy. It’s first to six. Jimmy needs to win to stay on the tour.

08:31 PM

Jimmy White 1 Stephen Hendry 3

Jimmy won the first, which was scrappy, and Stephen the second, which was worse. The third was messier still but then, not for the first time, Jimmy seemed to be over the line but Hendry got into full unkillable zombie mode and fought back via a snooker. Buoyed by that, he took the fourth with some fluency and it’s Jimmy who has it all to do when they come back to finish this after the mid session break.

08:29 PM

Frame 4

Stephen has made a half century, he misses one now, but that break of 53 is good enough and Stephen is going 3-1 ahead.

08:28 PM

Frame 4

Stephen, 33-11 ahead, plays a useful long shot with the rest. He’s got some options here as he cuts in a black. He’s starting to look like something here. The black goes to both corner pockets, he’s moving the cue ball around pretty well, and he’s opened up a decent lead here.

This actually now looks like a snooker match between professionals, Hendry is 66-11 here and his tempo has increased a lot. He cuts in a tricky-ish red, comes down to baulk and the only bad news for Stephen right now is that the mid session interval is coming up, because he has come to life and Jimmy looks tetchy, rattled and dispirited by that third frame.

08:21 PM

Jimmy White 1 Stephen Hendry 2

Signs of frustration for Jimmy? He looked pretty rattled at the end of the last frame, and a couple of wild shots early on in this one.

08:16 PM

Standard is

… not good, but something of a classic Hendry frame there in terms of sheer bloody minded refusal to back down.To view this content, you’ll need to update your privacy settings.Please click here to do so.

08:06 PM

Jimmy White 1 Stephen Hendry 2

Stephen seeking his snooker, it’s just pink and black on the table now. There’s very little room behind the black. He’s had a couple of goes but no cigar. Jimmy now manages to leave the pink near a pocket.

Stephen has done it! He eventually manages to get in behind the black and he’s snookered Jimmy, who cannot get out. Misses the pink. The leads now just 10. Jimmy produces a near-snooker.

But Stephen has a simple escape off the cushion, and knocks it in. All on the black! Jimmy goes for it, bit risky – they are rolling back the years now, not so much in terms of quality but in terms of Stephen just never giving up, and piling the pressure on.

Hendry misses the long black.

Jimmy goes for another flamboyant pot. Misses. Hendry has another go at a black – and he’s nailed it.

Gutshot for Jimmy White, he’s lost that frame from a seemingly impregnable position. Vintage Hendry v White.

08:00 PM

Frame 3 (cont.)

It is 52-26 and Jimmy has a chance to clip the yellow in. No, he goes for the safety.

Now Stephen gives Jimmy another opportunity. Great long yellow! That leaves Stephen needing a snooker.

07:56 PM

Frame 3 (cont.)

There’s one red left, Jimmy tries to roll it into the middle, using the yellow ball as insurance… Stephen with a hady safety, and now Jimmy gets a bad kiss that lets Stephen in. He gets the red.

It’s 52-19, Stephen needs the pink. Green and brown are on the baulk cushion. He does not pot the yellow.

07:51 PM

Frame 3 (cont.)

Jimmy with some useful pots every now and again but is having a hard time keeping the cue ball controlled. Nice shot with the rest now gives him an 18 point lead – a significant lead in this context! Oh but a kiss ends… he’s going to need another tough shot with the rest. Gets it, but he really has run out of position this time. 41-19 for Jimmy. Over to you, Stephen.

07:43 PM

Frame 3 (cont.)

That flicker of quality sadly extinguished as the players take turns to miss balls they’d expect to get. It’s certainly tense and strongly contested, mind you.

Safety exchange now in which Jimmy is setting the puzzles but Stephen is more or less getting out of.

07:38 PM

Frame 3 (cont.)

Stephen, who is taking 29 seconds per shot, with an iffy safety. Jimmy with a peach of a long pot! Shot of the match so far and then a champagne pink, hit with nearly full power, smashes into the pack and might have deserved a slightly kinder split. But he tickles in a red, adds another pink and this is looking a bit more like it.

07:31 PM

Frame 3

Stephen is on a straight pink but has not managed it. Jimmy in turn fluffs the offered red. Oh dear lads.To view this content, you’ll need to update your privacy settings.Please click here to do so.

07:27 PM

Jimmy White 1 Stephen Hendry 1

Jimmy misses a simple one. Stephen is back in again, and has another opportunity. Puts a medium range black down the side and that’s in. Hendry has a really good position here, balls nicely spread, black and pink both gettable. He moved to 58-9 and then puts away a black. Needs a simple red here and Jimmy needs snookers… Hendry is going to go on and miss this, far from convincing but enough to get over the line here.

Jimmy sits as Stephen clears.

07:21 PM

Frame 2 (still cont.)

It is Jimmy at the table, he has 8 points to Hendry’s 41. A tense, tight exchange is in progress. Jimmy leaves the white on the top cushion. The black is out of action. Hendry has played an excellent pot to move to 42. Really good get that along the cushion. Safety on the green.

07:12 PM

Frame 2

Stephen is at the table, he has the rest out as the take on a red to the right corner. It’s 29-8 in his favour, nicely played shot, and he pots the reds to hold for the black.

06:59 PM

Frame 2

Jimmy gets in first with a solid enough long red. He has a tricky shot with the rest though and fails. Stephen has a chance but loses position on the black and has to play the safety.

The black is over the corner pocket as a safety battle unfolds. Jimmy is on 20 and Stephen on 9.

06:56 PM

Jimmy White 1 Stephen Hendry 0

The players have made about 78127 errors between them in this opener but Jimmy is the one who gets over the line. Hendry scored just 8, Jimmy had multiple visits but managed to squeeze a few in each time.

They last met in the second round of the UK, in 2010. Stephen won, narrowly.

06:53 PM

snooker loopy (fever edition)

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06:46 PM

Frame 1 (cont.)

Jimmy is at the table and is starting to find some pots, he’s moved onto 13 here as he tries to around the top cushions for the blue. Both pink and black are out of action on the top cush. He is having to use loads of side to move the ball around for that blue. feels like he’s never really in control of this break and he settles for a safety.

Jimmy leads by 30-1 in this opener.

Henry has just whanged the cue at the reds and colours pretty much, developing the pink and the black without any serious hope of potting a red. Jimmy is in here, the reds are well spread, the pink is available and he should win this frame from here.

Oh dear! He’s managed to snooker himself behind the blue. Hendry allowed back into it.

06:44 PM

Here is Hendry talking

about his comeback.

06:36 PM

Frame 1

Stephen is at the table. He tries a safety shot but kisses the green. Jimmy with a safety and he gets in behind the yellow. Stephen looks hefty but fit and well.

Stephen with a poor effort at a pot, Jimmy has an opportunity to the corner but fluffs it. Neither man able to get going here.

Jimmy pots one, gets a kiss off a baulk colour and then uses a lot of side to come around the table and get around the pack. Oh no he has made a pig’s ear of the blue. Let off for Hendry.

06:34 PM

Right then

Frame 1

06:20 PM

Steve Davis

“Jimmy has continued to be a warrior on the seniors’ tour. And Stephen, even though he had a break, is discovering that he still needs the game. It’s not about being the cutting-edge players that they were in the 1990s. It’s about personal enjoyment – and that gets harder if you lose. Something that Stephen won’t know yet is whether he can handle losing, because that’s why he jacked it in the first place.”

06:18 PM

Brilliant read here

from Briggs about the rivalry. So many good lines.

Jimmy White v Stephen Hendry: An arch rivalry in three shots

05:22 PM

Couple of promising youngsters in the snooker!

Welcome to the somewhat unusual occasion here on Telegraph Sport of us live blogging the qualifying rounds of the World Snooker Championship. Why the interest? Well, it’s only ruddy Stephen Hendry playing Jimmy White. They have, of course, won this tournament seven times between them… and as we all know Stephen has all seven. But what finals they served up, what heartbreak for Jimmy fans, in the 1990s. Four times they met, and four times Hendry won – some of the most exquisite torture and sporting drama we have seen in our lifetimes.

I remember them all very well, 1994 being the absolute peak, when Stephen won 18-17 and your heart just broke for Jimmy. I never cared much for Hendry at the time, but he seems like a pretty good guy all things considered (for a Hearts fan). I find something admirable and inspiring about both of them still playing at their ages: Hendry is 52 and Jimmy is 58, for goodness sake, and given how much he has packed into those 58 years, he might as well be a hundred and fifty eight.

They compete tonight in round one of the qualifying tournament, it is best of 11. There are 144 people competing in the round; winners go through obviously to round two, in which 112 compete.

In fact, here is the qualifying format in full

QUALIFYING FORMAT

  • Players seeded 81-144 contest the opening round.
  • In round two, those 32 winners will face players seeded 49-80.
  • In round three, those 32 winners will face players seeded 17-48.
  • In round four, those 32 winners play each other, with the 16 winners going through to the Crucible.

Should be a great trip down memory lane, I’m not too sure in all honesty what the standard will be like. I did a press thing with Jimmy and Ronnie O’Sullivan a year or two ago and Jimmy was still hitting them lovely, so who knows.

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