Superb Xu Si denies Stephen Hendry a fairytale Crucible return
Stephen Hendry bowed out of the 2021 World Championship after losing 6-1 against an inspired Xu Si in the second qualifying round in Sheffield.
The seven-time World champion was outclassed by his Chinese opponent as his bid for a Crucible return came to an end at the English Institute of Sport.
Hendry, who beat long-time rival Jimmy White in round one, made a positive start and looked on course for an early 2-0 lead.
But the whole complexion of the contest changed when he rattled the final red in the jaws of the pocket; allowing Xu to clear and level on the black.
The 52-year-old would then scored just 58 points for the reminder of the match, as the Chinese ace made breaks of 75, 79, 51, 66 and 72 on the way to booking a third-round date with compatriot Zhou Yuelong.
“I had no composure; every shot seemed to be like a test. You just have to get on with it,” Hendry told WST.
“I had two or three chances to go 2-0 up. From then on, I didn’t really offer much resistance to my opponent.
“He capitalised on all my mistakes. It doesn’t matter how low a player’s ranked, if you make it easy for them they’re still going to pot balls and win frames.
“I wasn’t able to put him under any pressure at all after that.”
Hendry, who only made his long-awaited return at the Gibraltar Open last month, had always maintained that setting his sights on a Crucible return this year was overly ambitious.
Nevertheless, he took a close opening frame after knocking in a good long brown, before a run of 49 put him in control of the next.
But the Scotsman rattled the final red in the jaws of the corner pocket when looking good to clear up, which Xu duly obliged to do and level.
Fighting for tour survival, the world number 82 did not appear to feel the pressure and went into overdrive with runs of 75, 79, 51 and 66 moving him to the brink of victory at 5-1 ahead.
Hendry had scored just 33 points during those four frames, but the former Indian Open semi-finalist did not relent as a break of 72 in the next was enough to see him over the line.
Xu is joined in the third round by two-time ranking event winner Dominic Dale, who continued his perfect record against Oliver Lines with breaks of 124 and 104 earning him a 6-4 success, while world number 49 Liam Highfield edged out Fan Zhengyi 6-5.
Earlier in the day, former Crucible quarter-finalist Fergal O’Brien hit a top break of 140 – the highest of the event so far – on the way to a 6-3 victory over Fergal Quinn.
Meanwhile, Lei Peifan recovered from 5-1 down to stun Belgium’s Ben Mertens 6-5, and 2016 qualifier Mitchell Mann overturned a 5-2 deficit before prevailing in a deciding frame against 16-year-old Robbie McGuigan.
WATCH THE WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS STREAMED LIVE HERE (18+)
World Snooker Championship Qualifiers 2021 Results
Wednesday April 7
15 Fergal O’Brien 6-3 Fergal Quinn
26 Peter Devlin 1-6 Lukas Kleckers
27 Kacper Filipiak 6-4 Riley Parsons
28 Aaron Hill 4-6 Ashley Hugill
29 Lei Peifan 6-5 Ben Mertens
30 Simon Lichtenberg 6-3 Ivan Kakovskii
31 Ben Hancorn 2-6 Florian Nuessle
32 Mitchell Mann 6-5 Robbie McGuigan
33 Xu Si 6-1 Stephen Hendry
34 Liam Highfield 6-5 Fan Zhengyi
35 Nigel Bond 6-4 Lee Walker
36 Dominic Dale 6-4 Oliver Lines