The Scot will compete on the Main Tour as a professional for the first time in eight years.
Stephen Hendry is once again a professional snooker player after taking up the offer of an invitational Main Tour card.
The seven-time world champion, now aged 51, will participate on the circuit for at least the next two years.
Hendry announced his immediate retirement from the game in 2012 after losing to Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals of that year’s World Snooker Championship.
Although the Scot fired in a maximum 147 break during the tournament, Hendry felt that he couldn’t compete for the major trophies any more.
Nicknamed the “King of the Crucible” for his performances in Sheffield, Hendry dominated the sport throughout the 1990s.
He reached eight World Championship title deciders during that decade, winning a record seven times.
Hendry’s tally of 36 career ranking titles was also a record until Ronnie O’Sullivan recently surpassed the figure with his sixth success in Sheffield.
The last piece of silverware Hendry claimed was the Malta Cup 15 years ago, and it will be very interesting to see if he can threaten the business end of events upon his return.
For many years, the former world number one was adamant that his playing days were behind him, but a spark of enthusiasm returned after teaming up with renowned coach Stephen Feeney earlier this year.
Although a 4-2 loss to eventual champion Jimmy White ended his run in the World Seniors Championship last month, his impressive quarter-final victory over Aaron Canavan had fans whispering in excitement about his return to form.
Hendry has now answered those calls by joining fellow snooker stars White, Ken Doherty, and James Wattana in accepting an invitational tour card since the initiative began in 2014.
Stephen Hendry back on tour eight years after retiring. Good on him. There’s never been a more dominant force in the game: five world titles in a row, five Masters titles in a row. Once won five ranking titles in a row. Relentless winner. Fascinating to see how he fares.
— David Hendon (@davehendon) September 1, 2020
It will be intriguing to see if Hendry gets the opportunity to renew old rivalries with the likes of O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, and John Higgins.
Hendry remains understandably coy about his chances, but it seems unlikely that the 18-time Triple Crown event winner would make this decision if he didn’t think he was capable of being competitive.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to enter some tournaments over the coming two seasons,” said Hendry.
“I’ve really enjoyed picking up my cue again recently at the World Seniors and after some SightRight coaching I feel a little more confident in my game.”
“I’ve always missed the buzz of competing and although I have no expectations in terms of performance, this felt like a good time to explore getting back to the table.”
In the last decade, Hendry has been more commonly recognised for his off-table jobs and advocate roles.
A regular commentator and pundit with the BBC and ITV as well as a global representative of Chinese pool, Hendry additionally has a love for poker – winning a silver Pokerstars trophy at a media event a number of years ago.
But like all of the giants of sports history, Hendry wants to put his poker cards away and give it one last shot at glory while taking centre stage inside the competitive cauldron.
WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “I am thrilled that Stephen has decided to return to the tour. He is a giant of the sport and I know that all eyes will be on him every time he takes to the table in the coming months.
“It’s great to know that Stephen’s competitive fires are still burning and given his extraordinary achievements, it was a no brainer to offer him the opportunity to come back. I wish Stephen all the very best for the two seasons ahead.”
Hendry has missed the opportunity to enter the 2020/21 season-opener, with the draw for the upcoming Championship League having already taken place.
The first event that he could feature in is the European Masters at the end of September, which will be staged at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
However, Hendry has hinted that he will only participate on a part-time basis, with his first return to professional action possibly being the UK Championship at the Barbican Centre in York in November.
Featured photo credit: WSS