There’s always a fascination of seeing former sporting stars come out of retirement… have they still got the magic?
That was the case for seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry when he announced plans to dust off his cue in 2020, and it would be fair to say that the 53-year-old’s return to the green baize has not gone without a hitch.
Hendry is currently commentating for the BBC on the World Championships, and must be watching on green with envy as his old adversary Ronnie O’Sullivan continues to set the pace. The Rocket is the favourite in the snooker betting for the tournament at odds of 6/4 after his explosive run to the quarter-finals, and should he get his hands on the trophy he would draw level with the Scot on seven world titles.
Many snooker tips were predicting a strong run from another veteran – Hendry’s good friend Mark Williams – prior to a ball being struck at The Crucible, and he is now as short as 9/2 with the bookmakers to win a fourth world crown of his own.
🔴⚫️ Stephen Hendry – and Ken Doherty – have been granted two year wildcards to compete on the World Snooker Tour.
😯 And there has also been format changes announced for the UK Championship 👇https://t.co/RCNr4Fql2p
— Sporting Life 🎯🔴🎾⛳️🥊🏏🏉🏈 (@SportingLifeFC) April 26, 2022
Now Hendry and Ken Doherty, another legend of the game, have been handed a two-year card by the World Snooker Tour (WST) that will carry them through to the end of the 2023/24 season. The pair had dropped out of the professional standings at the end of the 2021 campaign for not accruing enough ranking points, but they have been granted a reprieve by the governing body.
At least O’Sullivan, Williams and John Higgins have shown that age is just a number in a sport where nous and experience are such prized assets.
Sowing the Seeds
The decisions to hand Hendry and Doherty their invitational cards was just one of the number of changes to snooker made by the WST in April.
Perhaps most pertinently, they have decided to end the open draw format of the UK Championship – one of snooker’s majors and part of the so-called Triple Crown. That meant that the best players in the world had to enter from the last 128 onwards, and a number of high-profile casualties have followed in the first round of one of the sport’s blue riband tournaments.
Our Chairman, Steve Dawson, was at the Crucible today making a range of announcements about the tour.
Click below to find out what they were 👇
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) April 26, 2022
The World Snooker Tour have now announced that the top 16 players in the tournament will be seeded and receive automatic byes into the last 32 – ensuring a smattering of the sport’s biggest names will make it to the business end of the UK Championship.
That will be a weight off their mind, and the increase in prize money for the tournament held annually at York’s Barbican Centre will only serve to increase their enjoyment yet further. The total prize pool will be increased from £1 million to £1.2 million, while the winner’s share will enjoy a boost of a cool £50,000 up to £250,000.
It will add extra incentive to perform in the Triple Crown outing, while the seeding system will ensure that TV viewers joining in the later rounds will be able to watch their favourite stars of the baize go at it.
So could Hendry and Doherty join the likes of O’Sullivan and Williams at the Barbican Centre in December?