Preview: White And Hendry


Our series of Cazoo World Championship previews continues as David Hendon considers how two of the all-time greats will fare in the qualifying rounds…

Jimmy White will set a new record when he takes his bow in the Cazoo World Championship qualifiers next week.

White, once the new kid on the baize, will be appearing in snooker’s premier event for the 43rd time, one more than the great Fred Davis, who made his first appearance in 1937 and his last in 1993.

In between, snooker underwent a rise and fall. For several years, there was no World Championship at all. But by the time White qualified for the Crucible in his debut season in 1981, the sport was riding high on British television and the charismatic Londoner became a megastar.

Now 60, White has become the sport’s great survivor. His many fans have been delighted by the genuine resurgence he has enjoyed this season. In February, he reached the last 16 of the German Masters, the first hexagenerian to advance this far in a ranking event for 31 years.

Earlier this month, White beat Judd Trump at the WST Classic and he is well placed to keep his tour card through his position on the one-year ranking list.

As ever, though, April means only one thing. For all his successes, White’s place in the public consciousness has come to be defined by the Crucible. It is a venue where he has produced some thrilling moments, including a 147 break in 1992, but also experienced major disappointment, losing all six of the finals he contested in snooker’s theatre of dreams.

White last appeared in the final stages in 2006. 17 years on, could he make an improbably romantic return to the Crucible?

He believes so. White’s irrepressible enthusiasm has kept him going through good times and bad, long after many others would have packed the game in.

The draw is tough. He faces Marco Fu or Martin O’Donnell with Noppon Saengkham awaiting in round three, but White remains giddily excited about the prospect of another World Championship. It’s hard to knock that positivity.

His long time nemesis in Sheffield was of course Stephen Hendry, who faces a round one qualifying tie against James Cahill, most famous for beating Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2019.

Hendry has not played much competitive snooker this season, although he did achieve a notable off-table victory over Lulu in ITV’s The Masked Singer.

He is back where he began his career, in the qualifying section. For someone who once bestrode snooker like a colossus, this multi-table environment is not where he wants to be but the opportunity to earn a first Crucible berth since 2012 is his motivation. He has been practising in between punditry sessions at the Tour Championship and is determined to put up a proper showing.

Us snooker fans can be a nostalgic bunch. It would mean a great deal to many to see White and Hendry back on the stage they graced so memorably in the 1990s.

But sentiment has no part in the cut and thrust of elite sport. The truth is, it will be difficult for both to win a series of best of 19s against younger, hungrier opponents.

White and Hendry inspired so many. Now they need every ounce of inspiration to defy the passing of years and raise the Crucible roof once more.

Tickets for the qualifying rounds are on sale for just £10 per day – for details click here.

Preview: White And Hendry World Snooker.

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