Nigel Bond is set to bring down the curtain on snooker's 33-year link back to the sport's 1980s golden era after suffering defeat in World Championship qualifying in Sheffield.
'00-147' was the only figure still playing on the World Snooker Tour without needing a wild card having turned professional in 1989, the same year Steve Davis lifted the last of his six world titles, and has announced his retirement with immediate effect.
The World No 76 – who lost 18-9 to Stephen Hendry in the 1995 world final – was drubbed 6-1 by Germany's Lukas Kleckers in the second round of qualifiers at the English Institute of Sport on Thursday and is outside of the top 64 who will be guaranteed their tour status next season.
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Hendry and Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White are still playing on the main tour, but both green baize icons have been extended tour cards for services to the sport rather than securing places via recent tournament success.
The 56-year-old Bond confirmed his plans to focus on coaching if he finished outside the top 64 rather than head for Q School to try to regain his tour card after turning professional in the same year Margaret Thatcher was British Prime Minister and Ride on Time by Black Box was the biggest selling UK single.
“Last night was not quite the ending I was hoping for, losing in the World Championship qualifiers," said Bond, who is 63rd on the all-time century list with 128 in his career, two more than the late Willie Thorne.
"I would like to wish Lukas the best of luck in the next round. Even though I know this time has been coming, today still feels a bit of a shock! At 56, my time as a main tour professional is at an end and I have no intention of playing Q School.
“After 33 years of being a professional player, today is a sad day as snooker has been my life. The last few years have been increasingly difficult when you don’t perform to the standard required. I feel very grateful to have been able to make a career out of my passion. I have had the privilege of traveling the world and meeting the most amazing people.
SNOOKER Nigel Bond
Image credit: PA Photos
"I would like to thank you all for your support and generosity and continuing friendship.
“On a more positive note I’m not putting away my cue any time soon. I will be competing in the World Seniors Championship next month at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I will continue with my coaching both privately and my involvement with the WPBSA Coaching courses, hoping to impart my knowledge and passion to others who share the love of the game.
"My role as a WPBSA Players Board director will continue for another three years.
“Once again I’d like to thank you all and for snooker for giving me a life I could only have dreamed of when I first picked up a cue!”
The former world No 5 enjoyed a glorious run in reaching the 2019 UK Championship quarter-finals in York where he revelled in wins over Judd Trump (6-3), Luca Brecel (6-5) and Gary Wilson (6-5) before losing 6-5 to Mark Allen in the last eight.
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“I rate those wins among the best of my career given how good those players are," he said before losing 5-1 to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the first round of the European Masters in February.
"And I proved to myself that I can still play. You don’t forget the shots as you get older, it’s just harder to play them consistently.
"I don’t put the hours into practice any more, if I’m playing on my own then a couple of hours is enough. And it’s harder to focus and concentrate as you get older.”
“I realise this could be my last season. I’m going to enjoy what’s left of it," commented the former World Seniors and Shoot Out champion.
"If I could have one good week as I did in York a couple of years ago, it could give me another two years.
"I would like to keep my tour place, but if I drop off then I can put more time into coaching.”
Bond's fellow former British Open winner, 50-year-old Fergal O'Brien, the World No 73, will also need to visit Q School to retain his card after losing 6-5 to 15-year-old Liam Davies in the second qualifying round.
Davies turns 16 in June and will face former Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown on Saturday chasing two more wins to reach the Crucible.
The Welsh teenager defeated Aaron Hill 6-4 to become the youngest person to win a match in World Championship history in the first round of qualifying, breaking a 95-year record.
“After my first match I had no idea I had become the youngest winner," said Davies.
"I was flicking through Facebook and I saw the story there. I’m trying not to think about getting to the Crucible, I’m just trying to stay in the moment and pot the balls in front of me. If you start trying to win, that’s when the pressure comes.
"I can’t thank (coach and player) Lee Walker enough because he has been with me from the start and I definitely wouldn’t be here without him.”
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