Hendry Clings On

From DC Sport:

Stephen Hendry’s life at The Crucible Theatre, and perhaps snooker in general, remains alive after a nail-biting 10-9 first round victory over Joe Perry in Sheffield.

The Scot knew that anything other than a win would consign him to dropping out of the elite Top 16 in the world rankings for the first time in his career and withheld a stern challenge from ‘The Gentleman’ to maintain his hopes of survival.

Resuming 6-3 in front following the opening session on Sunday, Perry won the first three frames and looked odds on to take a crucial lead before Hendry produced a trademark clearance to the black to regain his advantage.

By this stage, the encounter had become a scrap-fest and so the match concluded in that fashion as the duo traded blow for blow, missed pot for missed pot.

In the decider, Hendry established a 50 point lead before Perry clawed his way back into the frame, appearing set to seal a dramatic triumph and relegate the seven-time world champion to the history books.

However, a routine missed brown under the intense pressure offered Hendry a reprieve and the former world number one eventually sank the brown and blue to ensure a memorable victory.

The result means that Hendry has acquired enough points, as it stands, to be assured of a place among the top 16 – and thus not have to qualify for tournaments – but his fate remains at the hands of others, notably Mark Allen, Ricky Walden and Stuart Bingham.

To be absolutely certain, he will need to beat the winner of the Mark Selby and Jimmy Robertson match and, given that Selby is the bookies favourite at the moment, that might be too difficult for a player that has failed to find any consistent form over the last 24 months.

The rumblings this afternoon were that if Hendry had lost to Perry he would have announced his retirement from the game rather than compound himself to the miserable conditions that many former champions have to endure in the qualifying cubicles.

The chances are that a player like Hendry, who hasn’t had to play a qualifying match since 1987, would not be suited to that environment and his career would spiral downward at a rapid pace.

Even though he is still in with a fighting chance of his Top 16 position, Hendry hinted in his post-match press conference that even if he was to win this championship, unlikely as it is, he would consider his situation for the upcoming season.

An insinuation of retirement from the Scottish star would be taken with significantly more credence than any made by Ronnie O’Sullivan, who suggests it often.

Ronnie, meanwhile, appears in better form and flirted with a couple of 147 opportunities in building a 7-2 overnight lead against Dominic Dale while there were wins for Ding Junhui and Barry Hawkins, who overcame 6th seed Stephen Maguire 10-9.

Today almost marked the end of one legendary career but there were several announcements made that will encourage many others to build ones of their own.

First and foremost is the positive news that there will, as expected, be a ranking event in Australia in the summer.

Neil Robertson became only the third overseas player to win the world championship in 2010 and it was imperative that World Snooker struck while the iron was hot in organising tournaments Down-Under utilising the Melbourne man’s presence.

This addition ensures that snooker continues to become a truly global sport, already boasting events in Europe, Asia and the upcoming invitational Brazilian Masters in South America next season.

Barry Hearn even suggested that casinos in the United States may be interested in hosting an event, similar to how he has attracted some interest for darts in Las Vegas.

As well as this, there will be a new format for the Premier League. The former Matchroom Sport – also Barry Hearn – sanctioned event will now become fully organised by World Snooker and will include 10 players instead of 7.

The winner of each of this season’s ranking event earn a place – Ali Carter, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump – as does defending league champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, Championship League winner Matthew Stevens and current Master Ding Junhui.

The final place is reserved for the winner of this year’s World Championship but, if any of the aforementioned names emerge victorious in two weeks, the tenth spot will be offered to World Senior Champion Jimmy White.

I suddenly hear thousands of people praying that one of those other nine players win as it would be great to see the ‘Whirlwind’ back in the Premier League after a four year absence. Mark Selby appears the obvious stumbling block to that eventuality.

Think that is all? Sky Sports have announced a three year deal to broadcast the Shootout, which was a huge success when the inaugural event was held in Blackpool last January.

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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the British Open – won by Mark Williams.

1. Mark Selby
2. Judd Trump
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan
4. Neil Robertson
5. Kyren Wilson
6. Shaun Murphy
7. John Higgins
8. Mark Williams
9. Stephen Maguire
10. Ding Junhui
11. Mark Allen
12. Barry Hawkins
13. Stuart Bingham
14. Jack Lisowski
15. Yan Bingtao
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy