Stephen Hendry produced a vintage century break on his long-awaited return to competitive snooker, before ultimately losing 4-1 to Matthew Selt in the opening round of the Gibraltar Open on Tuesday.
This was the seven-time Crucible king’s first professional match since announcing his retirement following defeat by Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals of the 2012 World Championship.
And the 52-year-old gave a good account of himself at the Marshall Arena; producing a wonderful break of 107 – the 776th century of his career – to level the contest at 1-1.
But world number 35 Selt, who missed just three balls during an impeccably professional performance, regained control on proceedings to secure a comfortable win.
After hanging up his cue eight years earlier, Hendry made a dramatic U-turn last September by accepting WST chairman Barry Hearn’s offer of a two-year invitational tour card.
Having only featured sporadically on the World Seniors tour since ending his professional career, the Scotsman insisted he would not enter any events on the professional circuit until he was ‘ready’.
And 3,227 days since taking his final bow at the Crucible, Hendry looked fluent in the balls and any signs of rustiness were generally kept to a minimum in Milton Keynes.
After losing a closely fought opening frame on the blue, the 36-time ranking event winner rolled back the years in trademark fashion with a sublime 107 clearance to the pink to level.
But it proved a false dawn for the former world number one as Selt regained the lead with runs of 65 and 50, before controlling the next two frames to seal the deal.
The 2019 Indian Open champion set up a second-round showdown with world number 15 Barry Hawkins, who made breaks of 103 and 129 in his 4-2 win over Luo Honghao.
Jimmy White – Hendry’s long-time rival during his 1990s dominance – also turned back the clock with an inspired comeback to scrape past Joe O’Connor.
The Whirlwind trailed the Leicester cueist 3-0 but responded with contributions of 75, 74 and 54, before a timely run of 90 in the decider saw him complete a remarkable turnaround.
Elsewhere, breaks of 142 and 137 were the highlights of Mark Selby’s 4-1 success against Sam Craigie.
The three-time World champion will now play 1997 Crucible king Ken Doherty, who edged out Matthew Stevens in a deciding frame.
World number six Kyren Wilson also advanced after closing out his 4-2 victory over Kuldesh Johal with back-to-back centuries of 115 and 109.
He is joined in round two by Mark Williams and Jack Lisowski, who enjoyed 4-1 wins over Li Hang and Farakh Ajaib respectively.
Gibraltar Open 2021 Results
Tuesday March 2
Steven Hallworth 2-4 Jamie Jones
Chen Zifan 4-1 Daniel Womersley
Ian Burns 1-4 Leo Fernandez
Jack Lisowski 4-1 Farakh Ajaib
Mark Williams 4-1 Li Hang
Jimmy White 4-3 Joe O’Connor
Chang Bingyu 4-3 Eden Sharav
Nigel Bond 3-4 Chris Wakelin
Kyren Wilson 4-2 Kuldesh Johal
Andrew Higginson 4-3 Lyu Haotian
Stuart Carrington 4-0 Gao Yang
Zhao Xintong 4-1 Ashley Carty
Ken Doherty 4-3 Matthew Stevens
Mark Selby 4-1 Sam Craigie
Peter Devlin 3-4 Daniel Wells
Elliot Slessor 4-3 Jackson Page
Matthew Selt 4-1 Stephen Hendry
Barry Hawkins 4-2 Luo Honghao
Martin Gould 4-2 David Grace
Zhao Jianbo 4-0 Noppon Saengkham