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Stephen Hendry denies Jimmy White again in the World Snooker Championship

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Stephen Hendry in action

Stephen Hendry won his first professional match in just under nine years after seeing off rival Jimmy White in the 2021 World Championship first qualifying round in Sheffield.

The seven-time World champion, who returned to the main tour this season, was making his first appearance in snooker’s blue-riband event since reaching the 2012 quarter-finals.

And while far from his vintage best in the eighth World Championship meeting between him and White, runs of 66, 53 and 52 were enough to give him a sixth victory in the event over the Whirlwind.

Undoubtedly the most eagerly anticipated tie of the round, two of the game’s legends renewed a long-standing rivalry spanning 60 previous encounters – including four Crucible finals during the 1990s.

While the quality of their glory days may have been lacking, it did not detract from the excitement of the first professional meeting between these two since Hendry prevailed 9-8 in the opening round of the 2010 UK Championship.

The first two frames of meeting number 61 were shared, before the third swung the contest firmly in Hendry’s favour.

Needing a snooker, the Scotsman attained it before snatching a 2-1 lead on the black, before a run of 53 – the first half-century of the match – opened a two-frame cushion at the mid-session interval.

Despite losing the next frame, White had a great opportunity to reduce the deficit to 4-2.

The Whirlwind, whose hopes of remaining on the tour are currently hanging by a thread, compiled a neat break of 58 to establish a 62-0 advantage.

But there were shades of that missed black during the 1994 World Championship final as he overcut a tricky red to the corner pocket; from which Hendry rolled back the years with a vintage 66 clearance to move 5-1 ahead on the black.

Although the pressure was evidently taking its toll on White, who last appeared at the Crucible in 2006, he held on to keep his hopes alive and cut the gap to 5-3.

But a dominant ninth frame by Hendry – capped by a neat run of 52 – gave him his maiden victory since returning to the tour – and first professional success since a 13-4 rout of John Higgins in the 2012 World Championship last 16.

The 52-year-old, who officially made his long-awaited comeback in the Gibraltar Open last month, will face China’s Xu Si in the second qualifying round on Wednesday.

Joining Hendry is Oliver Lines, who hit breaks of 134, 125, 122, 93 and 78 in his 6-1 rout of Dylan Emery, while Jamie Wilson averaged an impressive 16.6 seconds per shot in a 6-0 whitewash of Barry Pinches.

Elsewhere, former semi-finalist Andy Hicks boosted his tour survival hopes with a 6-2 win over Reanne Evans; runs of 62 and 69 helping him along the way.

James Cahill, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2019 event, thrashed Sean Maddocks 6-1, while Belgian amateur Julien Leclercq recovered from 5-2 down to stun Soheil Vahedi 6-5.


World Snooker Championship Qualifiers 2021 Results

Monday April 5

Round One

2 Zak Surety 4-6 Fan Zhengyi
4 Oliver Lines 6-1 Dylan Emery
9 Andy Hicks 6-2 Reanne Evans
13 Zhao Jianbo 6-3 Ross Muir

5 Fraser Patrick 6-4 Leo Fernandez
6 Barry Pinches 0-6 Jamie Wilson
7 Gao Yang 6-3 Paul S Davison
8 Soheil Vahedi 5-6 Julien Leclercq

1 Jimmy White 3-6 Stephen Hendry
10 Billy Joe Castle 6-3 Connor Benzey
11 David Lilley w/o Amine Amiri
24 James Cahill 6-1 Sean Maddocks