Saturday, 5 November 2011

Hendry set for UK qualifiers

picture by Monique Limbos
The mad scramble to qualify for this year's UK Championship gets underway tonight - and the biggest plot sees seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry beginning life in the cubicles.

Down to the number 20 in the world rankings, it's the first time in 23 years the Scot has not been a member of the top 16 as we build up to a major venue.

To qualify for the UK Championship, a title he has won and finished runner-up in both five times, he needs just the one win, but in a environment that is alien to him.

Widely regarded as the greatest player the game has ever produced, Hendry is used to playing at the biggest venues and in front of the biggest crowds.

When he faces one of Gerard Greene, Jimmy Robertson, Kurt Maflin or David Hogan on Wednesday, I expect he will only have a handful of snooker's hardcore fans watching on.

His unwillingness to play in many PTCs also means he's remained starved of experience for playing on the less glamorous occasions.

While I still believe Hendry is the strongest player in this field of qualifiers, success is not guaranteed. He will be fighting players who have played almost all of their professional snooker in this format. You can be sure they'll make it tough for him in their own backyard, just as Hendry would do if he was meeting them in a packed auditorium.

Whether Hendry qualifies or not almost boils down to his attitude.

In my opinion, Hendry's troubles over the past few seasons derive from his struggle to accept he no longer has the same command on the table as he did when he was dominating the sport back in the 1990s. I get the feeling that his inability to beat players at will like he always used to, grates him.

We have seen, even this season, Hendry can play in patches to the same standard that has yielded him so much success. His problem has been has been delivering this consistently. Seeing himself slip down the rankings and knowing his game is still there, must be the most frustrating of all.

Many people predicted that once Hendry dropped into the qualifiers, he would hold aloft the white flag and hang up his cue. Although he hasn't announced his retirement, it is possible that a series of limp performances until the end of the season effectively says the same.

But I've got a feeling we haven't seen the last of Hendry yet.

He is a proud man. A man who has always looked ahead.

It would have been easy after winning three, four or even five world titles to take his foot off the gas. But he's a rare breed. A player who set himself such high standards he was always looking forward to beat the next record in front of him.

Although he has no specific records beat now he's outside of the top 16, I think his ethos will remain strong. I refuse to believe he's ready to let playing at the big venues slip from his grasp. I've got a feeling he could come back fighting.

I'm not suggesting he'll make it back to the top of the sport but by the same token, I guess we've not seen the last of him on the television either.

To be as successful as Hendry, you don't get there without determination. It's this kind of steely attribute that will ensure he can hack it in the cubicles.

For the full UK Championship qualifying draw, click here

No comments:

Post a Comment