Stephen Hendry's snooker comeback 'has nothing to do with Ronnie O'Sullivan'

Ronnie O’Sullivan edging towards Stephen Hendry’s World Snooker Championship record had nothing to do with the Scot’s decision to come out of retirement.

Hendry has accepted a two-year invitational tour card to return to professional snooker and will compete with the best in the world again over the next two seasons.

The 51-year-old last played at the top level in 2012 before retiring after defeat in the World Championship quarter-final to Stephen Maguire.

Since then O’Sullivan has taken his tally to six world titles and is now just one behind Hendry’s record of seven Crucible triumphs, a piece of history that is now very much in the Rocket’s reach.

It was suggested in some quarters that Hendry had decided to return to the fray in an attempt to hold onto the World Championship record, but he says this could not be further from the truth, simply wanting to enjoy competing again.

‘No not at all, that’s got nothing to do with it,’ Hendry told Dave Hendon for Eurosport. ‘I’ve got no inclinations or thinking that I’m going to come back and stop him winning titles, that’s not in the decision-making at all.

‘It’s purely about missing the buzz of being in an arena playing, seeing what I can do, if I can play, see if I can play anywhere near the way I could. That’s basically it, really.’

‘I just want to play down expectations for my own benefit, as much as anyone else’s. I don’t want to turn up at a tournament and people think I’m going to win an eighth world title, I’m getting all that and it’s just nonsense at the moment.

‘Basically I want to come back and try and enjoy playing in a match arena again.’

The comeback has been inspired by Hendry’s work with SightRight coach Steve Feeney. which has seen him start to rediscover his love for competing because he is playing well again.

The unique method of coaching is about how to sight the balls properly and Feeney was worked with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams with his method.

Hendry has already felt an improvement, showing flashes of brilliance at the World Seniors last month before a semi-final exit to Jimmy White, and is exited to learn more.

‘I’ve been working with Stephen Feeney, I did 8-10 sessions with him pre-lockdown and things were going really well,’ Hendry continued.

‘Then obviously lockdown happened and I didn’t play for four months. When it was possible we had one session, then a couple before the World Seniors and I played better, I started to hit the ball fine.

‘We talked about the possibility of playing in some events, but it came to a head when I played with Barry [Hearn] and he approached me [about a comeback].

‘I don’t fully understand it all yet, I can pot balls but I’ve no idea how they work. It was quite complicated to take in, it’s a whole different way of sighting.

‘Traditionally I use my right leg to get on the line of the shot, where now I’m playing it from middle, so it’s getting used to all that. It’s a whole new way of looking at it.

‘Composure’s the thing that I need to get back, because that’s what beat me in the semi-final against Jimmy, I had no composure whatsoever, so that’s what I need to get back.’

Hendry has not entered the upcoming Championship League or European Masters, with the English Open the next available tournament for him, but he has picked out the UK Championship in November as his most likely first tournament back.

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