Most comebacks in sport aren’t very successful, but the attempt from Stephen Hendry has been particularly bad.
In September of 2020, Hendry made the shock announcement that he was making a return as a professional player.
In one of Barry Hearn’s last major acts as the chairman of the World Snooker Tour, Hendry was persuaded to accept an invitational tour card.
At the age of 43, the seven-time world champion first retired from the game after the 2012 World Snooker Championship.
In Sheffield that year, Hendry compiled a 147 break in the first round and subsequently beat defending champion John Higgins to reach the last eight.
However, a heavy loss to compatriot Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals was enough to convince Hendry that his time at the top was over.
It had been over for several years in fact, with Hendry by that point a shadow of the fierce competitor who dominated all before him throughout the 1990s.
Later revealing that he had suffered from snooker’s version of the yips as he experienced his slide down the rankings, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to witness the departure of someone who only knew one way of playing – to win.
Hendry continued to appear intermittently on the Snooker Legends circuit, which would ultimately become the World Seniors Tour, but to limited success.
Indeed, the 36-time ranking event winner has to this day failed to win a single title on the seniors circuit.
In 2020, then, the revelation that Hendry would once again be competing as a professional came as totally unexpected news.
By his own admission he was still not ready, but some early sessions with renowned SightRight coach Stephen Feeney convinced him that an unlikely return to form was possible.
While most doubted the legitimacy of there being any plausible chance of him recreating his heyday, there was nonetheless plenty of hubbub surrounding his impending return.
What has transpired since can only be described as a soggy squib, and with his initial two-year invitational tour card soon coming to an end, it’s a wonder what’s next.
Hendry hasn’t competed since the UK Championship in November, when he was thrashed 6-1 by Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the first round.
Even prior to that, he was extremely selective in which events he entered, continuously delaying his initial comeback before finally playing at the Gibraltar Open in March of last year.
A blockbuster World Championship qualifying tie with old rival Jimmy White was arguably the highlight of his recent stint on the circuit.
Hendry beat White 6-3, although both players were somewhat embarrassed by their respective performances, and the former tamely bowed out at the very next hurdle anyway.
There have only been three match victories in total, but the truth is that Hendry hasn’t participated enough to warrant many more.
It has always been Hendry’s goal to make another appearance at the Crucible Theatre, and presumably he’ll give it one more crack in April this year.
But having played so little, what realistic chance does he have of fulfilling such an achievement, and what will he do if he’s offered another invitational tour card once this one expires?
There are critics who bemoan the invitational tour card, and when you look at how Hendry has treated it, it’s understandable why.
White and Ken Doherty are two other beneficiaries, and even though they don’t fare especially well either, at least they respect the opportunity that they’ve been given and enter most events, in recognition of their love of the game.
The Hendry comeback, while once a source of excitement, has become somewhat of a running joke.
Hendry’s legacy will, of course, not be tarnished, but it is a wonder why he has even bothered when the attempt has been so halfhearted.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, it was confirmed that Hendry did not enter the 2022 World Snooker Championship qualifiers.
Featured photo credit: WST