The Sunday Post (Newcastle)
Hendry won’t lie, if Ronnie grabs a seventh world crown it will hurt
Stephen Hendry would be “bitterly disappointed” if Ronnie O’Sullivan equalled his record of seven World Championship titles.
The pair are great friends off the table and have a mutual admiration for each other’s stellar achievements in the green-baize game.
But Hendry has painfully watched his long list of records being blown away by the Rocket since he retired in 2012.
“I’m not going to lie, I would be bitterly disappointed if Ronnie matched my record,” admitted Hendry, ahead of the start of next week’s World Championship in Sheffield.
“I’m not going to say I’d be over the moon about it, certainly not. Or say it doesn’t matter, because it does.
“It’s a record I hold very proudly and if he equals it then fair play to him. It’s an incredible achievement.”
Last season O’Sullivan eclipsed Hendry’s impressive haul of 36 ranking titles by winning an impressive sixth Crucible crown. It made him the most-successful player of all time.
The enigmatic star overhauled Hendry’s century breaks’ record and became the first player to pocket 1,000 centuries.
O’Sullivan now has 15 maximum 147 breaks – having overtaken Hendry’s previous record of 11 – and he’s also surpassed the Scot’s 18 Triple Crown triumphs.
The Rocket, with 20 wins, has won the majors – World Championship, Masters and UK Championship – more than any other player.
If the 45-year-old can defend his world title this season – and go level with Hendry – he would emulate fellow sporting greats Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in their respective fields.
F1 racing star Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles last season and is bidding to become the greatest of all time on the track.
And tennis ace Roger Federer has chased down and surpassed Pete Sampras’s seven Wimbledon titles.
“Ronnie’s record stands up against other sporting greats, no doubt about it,” stressed Hendry.
“He’s a phenomenal snooker player and a phenomenal sportsman.
“Show me any other sportsman that’s as talented as Ronnie is at his sport. There aren’t many out there.
“To reach seven world titles over the length of time he’s done it would be a great achievement.”
Hendry made a shock comeback this season after a nine-year hiatus but failed to qualify for the Crucible after playing just three matches all season.
After a nostalgic win over one-time arch-rival Jimmy White in the first round of qualifying, the 52-year-old crashed out 6-1 to world No. 82 Chinese young gun, Xu Si.
But the former “Golden Boy” of snooker has stressed he will have another crack at gracing the sport’s spiritual Sheffield home next season.
“I’ve never got any enjoyment out of losing, ever,” admitted Hendry, who has yet to reproduce the form which saw him dominate during his heyday.
“Next season I’ll play in more events, but if every performance is like against Xu then the comeback might not last long!
“I’m curious to find out if I can perform and whether I ever will be able to is the big question.
“I hope it is not a new Stephen Hendry because my comeback won’t last long if that is how it continues.
“I’m working on stuff technically. I am trying hard not to have technical thoughts in my mind.”
This year’s annual 17-day marathon is being used as one of government’s pilot events for the return of fans.
There will be a 33% capacity on the opening Saturday, when O’Sullivan opens his title-defence, which equates to approximately 330 fans – and crowds will increase incrementally throughout the tournament to a full house for the two-day final.
All spectators will have to have a Covid test before being allowed into the tournament and must show confirmation of a negative test, as well as having another five days afterwards at home.
However, no Under-18s will be allowed into the event, nor will anyone classed as “clinically vulnerable” or pregnant women.
A World Snooker Tour source revealed: “The vast majority of our plans will stand, but of course we are having ongoing discussions with the government.
“There is a strict code of conduct for fans, which involves testing and sanitising, and if fans don’t want to and can’t attend, then they can have a full refund or transfer their ticket to be used at next year’s tournament.”