The seven-time world champion will return after a nine-year hiatus next week.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Stephen Hendry to not have any expectations ahead of the Scot’s eagerly anticipated comeback in the Gibraltar Open.
After months of hearsay on which tournament would be his first, Matthew Selt was finally confirmed as the former world number one’s first opponent since retiring from the professional game after the 2012 World Snooker Championship.
Hendry and Selt will face each other in the ranking event next Tuesday evening at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
Talking to the World Snooker Tour after his magnificent 6-1 victory over Jack Lisowski in the quarter-finals of the Players Championship, O’Sullivan said people shouldn’t pressurise Hendry too much.
“I support him, he’s a true great of our game,” the 45 year-old told tournament emcee Phil Seymour.
“Whatever decision he makes, let him make it, let him enjoy it, let him have some fun on there.
“Try not to have any expectations, because the more expectations you put on Stephen, probably the less he’ll want to come out.
“If people come out and expect the first year for him to find his feet, and just allow him to do that, but whether he gets that freedom or not I don’t know.
“If snooker and everybody wants to see him in the game, support him in that way and try not to be on his back if he doesn’t play so well.
“It’s really tough. I said to Stephen to try not to expect anything for a long time.
“Play in everything and look at the first year as bedding yourself in, and at some point you’ll go, ‘I’m up to speed,’ because it really, really is tough.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry, who haven’t played each other competitively since 2011, are on opposite sides of the Gibraltar Open draw so it appears very unlikely that they’ll cross paths again on this particular occasion.
Indeed, Hendry will be a huge outsider in the betting market even to get through his first match with Selt.
O’Sullivan, meanwhile, remains the favourite for glory in the Players Championship and was in scintillating form as he walloped Lisowski in not much longer than an hour to reach the last four on Thursday.
The “Rocket” lived up to his nickname and reeled off breaks of 125, 124, 93, 79, 63, and 59 in quick-fire fashion to advance to the semi-finals.
O’Sullivan boasted a pot-success rate of 99% having missed only two balls across the entire contest with his fellow Englishman.
In the penultimate round, the world champion will take on Barry Hawkins and is 3/10 to progress to the final, with more about BoyleSports here including handy welcome offers.
Kyren Wilson is on the other side of the draw, awaiting the winner from the last remaining quarter-final between John Higgins and Mark Selby.
Wilson was in good form as well – the Kettering cueist scoring heavily in a 6-2 defeat of Australia’s Neil Robertson.
Players Championship Quarter-Finals Draw
Stuart Bingham (16) 2-6 Barry Hawkins (9)
Jack Lisowksi (5) 1-6 Ronnie O’Sullivan (4)
Neil Robertson (3) 2-6 Kyren Wilson (6)
John Higgins (10) vs Mark Selby (2)
Where to Watch the Players Championship
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on ITV4 in addition to blanket Eurosport coverage provided to the rest of Europe.
Fans around the world will have various other options available to them, which you can find more details for here.
As has become the norm since last year, the tournament in its entirety will be staged behind closed doors.
Featured photo credit: WST