Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry has told Eurosport that he is keen for people not to get carried away ahead of his return, but he’s not just making up the numbers.
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The last time fans saw Hendry in the professional sphere was at the 2012 World Championship, where he reached the quarter-finals, but reports in recent weeks started to swirl that he was considering a return to the game.
And on Tuesday it was officially confirmed that he had been handed a tour wildcard for at least the next two seasons.
The first tournament Hendry can compete in is the European Masters which starts on September 21 and speaking to Eurosport the Scot was keen for people not to get too carried away.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. Looking at all the press today, the back pages of papers, I think the last time I was on the back pages was when I won my seventh World Championship. It’s gone a bit mental!
“I just want to try and play down expectations for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s because I don’t want to turn up at a tournament and people think it’s ‘the re-coming’ of Stephen Hendry and ‘he’s going to win an eighth world title’. I’m getting all that and it’s just nonsense.”
However the steely determination that made Hendry such a formidable opponent in winning 36 ranking titles over the course of his career still exists. He’s very clear that he’s not here to make up the numbers. Hendry believes that he can compete despite being 51, highlighting Judd Trump and current world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, who surpassed Hendry with 37 ranking titles after his Crucible success, as the only two who are at a different level.
“There’s no point in coming back and embarrassing myself and getting beat. It could happen but that’s not the aim. I’m not just doing it for a publicity stunt
But I genuinely don’t think there’s many of the top players doing anything that I wasn’t doing at my peak, I genuinely believe that.
“I think Ronnie on his day is just an incredible player, Judd Trump on his day is as well. These two have possibly taken it a little bit higher. The rest of them, I don’t think there’s anyone doing anything I wasn’t doing.”
Despite that though Hendry doesn’t expect to be playing on a regular basis.
“It’s not a full comeback. I’m trying to calm down expectations. I’m not going to be like Jimmy [White] and Ken [Doherty] playing every event. I’ll pick and choose them when I think I’m ready. I don’t want to build up that I’m going to be practising six or eight hours a day and playing in every event because that’s not happening.
“I guess it was quite an easy decision because I knew I wasn’t going to be full time, going and playing qualifiers every week. It was always going to be a situation of picking and choosing the events”