Tour Championship 2021: 'Amazing' – Stephen Hendry on Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins' rivalry
World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins face each other in the opening quarter-final of the Tour Championship at Celtic Manor on Monday. It will be their 72nd meeting since the duo turned professional in 1992 with Higgins defeating his old rival 10-3 in the Players Championship final last month. The seven-times world champion feels the pair's ongoing gold standard is "amazing to see".
Hendry – who accepted a two-year invitational card to return following his retirement in 2012 – admits he did not think the duo would still be so dominant in the nine years he has spent away from competition.
'It's amazing!' - Hendry on the longevity of O'Sullivan and Higgins
When Hendry retired, Higgins was ranked fifth in the world with O'Sullivan at nine. He returns with O'Sullivan ranked number two having won three more world titles and Higgins still at world number five having moved onto 31 ranking title victories after ending a three-year drought by winning the Players.
Hendry feels that only the undisputed world number one Judd Trump can be regarded as performing at a more consistent level in an astonishing display of sporting longevity with O'Sullivan reaching four ranking finals this season ahead of his world title defence next month.
"I thought they would be around the top four, definitely top eight," said Hendry. "The game changed in the way you can pick and choose events so Ronnie didn't have to play in everything.
"That really helps Ronnie.
It just proves how good they are. All the players that have joined the ranks, all the Chinese players, all the young players and still these guys are head and shoulders above a lot of the rest, Judd Trump apart.
"It's amazing to see and all credit to them."
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Hendry feels his fellow Scot will be too hot for O'Sullivan to handle if he replicates the form that saw him drop only four frames in four matches on his march to winning the Players Championship buoyed by a slight change in his technique when addressing the cue ball.
"If the same Higgins as the one who won Players a couple of weeks ago turns up tomorrow there’s only 1 winner," said Hendry.
O'Sullivan leads the head-to-head 37-31 with three drawn matches in league formats, but the fine margins between them is illustrated by the betting with O'Sullivan priced at 4/5 and Higgins available at 11/10.