Friday, 23 September 2011

Hendry crashes out of top 16

Stephen Hendry has hit his last competitive cue ball before the next rankings reshuffle - and is officially out of the top 16 for the first time in 23 years.

The eagle-eyed ranking hawks among us would have known that his 5-1 defeat to Robert Milkins at the Shanghai Masters in fact sealed his fate, because he hasn't entered the PTC6.

But a 4-3 loss to Anthony Hamilton in the PTC5 today was when the end of an era really struck me.

The seven-time world champion is without question the most successful player of all time and at 42-years-old he's lost the top 16 status he won as a teenager.

This saddens me as much as it will his legion of fans, but we can't pretend it hasn't been coming.

Hendry has for years been a pale resemblance of the player who dominated the sport throughout the 1990s.

It's been five years since he played in his last ranking final at the 2006 UK Championship and he last lifted a trophy at the 2005 Malta Cup.

By his own admission, a severe loss of confidence has been the core reason behind his falling the past 12 months. But for me, Hendry's chief problem has been his struggle to accept his slide. That's not a massive surprise because the Scot is a born winner. He's a born champion. And when his game deteriorated to the extent he could no longer be a champion, I think that hurt him most.

The frustrating thing for Hendry's fans is that he can still play. Of course, he'll never lose his game completely but producing it consistently is a thing of the past.

The stark reality for Hendry is that he won't be competing in January's Masters and will have to face the qualifiers if he wants to make it to the UK Championship.

I wouldn't back Hendry to bounce back into the top 16. Personally, I think he's lost the heart for the battle anyway.

But while we must concede that Stephen is not the player he once was, his legendary status will never be touched.

Hendry: the greatest of them all.

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