Stephen Hendry outplayed Neil Robertson in the first round of the Welsh Open to claim his first win over a top ranked player in a ranking event for quite some time.
Evidently not content at seeing his fellow veteran Steve Davis receiving all the plaudits for his victory over Ali Carter yesterday, Hendry produced one his finest displays in recent memory to see off the Australian 4-1 in Newport.
The Scot dropped out of the Top 16 earlier in the season for the first time since he first graced the elite bracket back in the late 1980s, sparking fears from his fans that he may hang up his cue.
On the contrary, the three-time Welsh Open champion has unexpectedly found some form in recent months despite the indignity, for him anyway, of being back in the qualifiers and in amongst the tight, cramped cubicles.
Perhaps the pressure of not having to protect his status at the sport’s summit has released the weight from the seven-time world champion’s shoulders, allowing him to cue more freely and enjoy the game more for what it is at this stage of his career.
At 43, Hendry is not going to regularly contest the latter stages of events but could still enjoy a successful Indian summer much to the same effect that Davis and Jimmy White shared in the middle of the last decade.
The interesting thing about having to go through the qualifying round is that it may actually work to his advantage.
Hendry’s ability has never waned but his consistency has and the extra matches that he will encounter could do his confidence a world of good – provided he wins them of course.
Confidence building wins will come no bigger than knocking out Masters champion Robertson, who has been arguably the best player on the circuit during this campaign.
If Hendry and Davis can come through their second round clashes, also played under the short best of seven format, they will be poised to lock old horns in the last 8.
Elsewhere today, world number one Mark Selby survived a huge scare before falling over the line 4-3 in a scrappy affair with unknown Sam Baird.
Baird, 81 places below Selby in the world rankings, looked to be about to cause one of the upsets of the season when at 3-2 ahead he potted a magnificent yellow, seemingly on his way to a famous triumph.
However, the nerves got the better of him and he missed a cut-back blue when only it and the subsequent pink were needed to send his Leicester opponent crashing.
Selby played terribly throughout – there’s no other way of saying it and some of the misses from the ‘Jester’ were laughable – but once it went into a decider there was always going to be a likely victor.
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic performance from 23 year-old Baird, who’s safety in particular was excellent, and the experience should prove invaluable in the future
Meanwhile, Martin Gould and Stuart Bingham saw off Peter Ebdon and Mark King 4-2 respectively, Stephen Lee continued his impressive form this year with a 4-1 victory over Michael Holt while home favourite Mark Williams edged Andy Hicks 4-3.