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Jimmy White v Stephen Hendry: World Championship Qualifiers 2021 preview – Legends renew iconic rivalry

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Hendry and White renew their box office rivalry (Photo by Malcolm Croft/PA Archive/PA Images)

One of snooker’s most iconic rivalries is renewed in the opening round of the World Championship qualifiers as Jimmy White faces his nemesis Stephen Hendry.

A fairy-tale encounter sees the legendary duo face off in a competitive main tour match for the first time in over a decade as they set out on the road to The Crucible.

Hendry and White have contested some of the sport’s most memorable matches, the majority of which coming the 90s – when they locked horns in four World Championship finals.

Hendry famously came out on top on all four of those occasions during his relentless dominance of that decade, leaving White to ponder what could have been.

Now, the veteran duo, both in their fifties, have incredibly been drawn together in the first qualifying round of the sport’s show-piece in a fixture which has captured the imagination of the sporting world.

Hendry is making his return to the sport’s most prestigious tournament for the first time since 2012, having come out of retirement this season.

He has played just one competitive match this term, losing 4-1 to Matthew Selt in the recent Gibraltar Open, but making his 776th career century in the process.

The seven-time World Champion has remained active on the seniors circuit in recent years and reached the Semi-Finals of the World Seniors Championship at The Crucible last August – where he was beaten by none other than White – who went on to win the title.

His last win over ‘The Whirlwind’ in a professional match came in the Last 32 of the 2010 UK Championship, and the Scot starts out as the outsider of the two to kick-start his quest for a remarkable Crucible return.

White, 58, is the oldest player on the professional circuit and is bidding to reach the main stages of the World Championship for the first time since 2006, having lost in six previous finals.

An ever-present on the tour since 1980, White’s longevity is matched by his passion for the sport and he continues to defy the odds against some of snooker’s current elite.

However, he comes into the qualifiers as world number 83 and with his professional future in doubt, needing a string of wins to retain his Tour Card, or be left relying on WST Chairman Barry Hearn to award another wildcard.

White’s best run this season saw him reach the Last 16 of the Gibraltar Open last month, notably defeating 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham along the way.

Back-to-back World Seniors Champion, White came closest to a fully-fledged Crucible return in 2013 when he reached the final qualifying round before losing out to Robert Milkins.

His two World Championship triumphs over Hendry came in 1988 and 1998, but arguably their most memorable meeting in 1994 saw White squander his best chance to capture the world title, missing a black off the spot in the deciding frame of the final, allowing Hendry to clear and snatch victory.

In total, they have met 60 times dating back to 1986, with Hendry prevailing on 36 of those occasions to White’s 19 wins and five draws.

Their latest unmissable show-down gets under way from 7.30pm BST on Monday April 5 and will be contested over the best of 11 frames, behind closed doors at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

China’s Xu Si will await the winner in the Second Qualifying Round later in the week.


Jimmy White v Stephen Hendry – Players’ View:

White (via Eurosport): “As soon as the draw came out, I had two missed calls from Stephen Hendry. I was playing another professional so my phone was off.

“It’s completely unbelievable. So bizarre. We’ve been practising together for the last three months.

“I know the draw wasn’t fixed as it was done in a live office. Out of the all the players, we were the first two names out of the hat.

“He’s come back to play in the Gibraltar Open and the World Championship this season and we’ve come out in the first round of his second event back.”

Hendry: “I have been told the situation and there is probably more on the match from Jimmy’s side than mine.

“All of the great matches we had in finals, Semi-Finals, and we are actually playing probably our last ever match at the World Championship, who knows, and it is rock bottom, round one. It’s incredible.”