Stephen Hendry is back – but what’s in store for the seven-time world champion?

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Stephen Hendry has returned to the baize, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Mark Staniforth, PA

Stephen Hendry’s much-anticipated return to the professional tour ended in a 4-1 defeat to Matthew Selt in the first round of the Gibraltar Open on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old will now turn his attention to attempting to qualify for the World Championship, which starts at the Crucible in Sheffield next month.

Here the PA news agency assesses the seven-time world champion’s chances of success on the basis of his comeback performance in Milton Keynes.

How did Hendry fare?

Stephen Hendry will now turn his attention to the Crucible (Lewis Whyld/PA)

Despite his defeat, it is fair to say Hendry performed to a higher standard than had been expected, culminating in his superb 107 break to briefly draw level in the second frame. Selt, a former ranking event winner and currently the world number 35, did very little wrong, and Hendry did enough to suggest he could have pushed a lesser opponent much closer.

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What does he need to improve?

Matthew Selt ended Stephen Hendry’s hopes of a winning comeback (Simon Cooper/PA)

By his own admission, Hendry needs to tighten up his safety game, which is something he tended to disregard even in his prime. He left Selt a series of long pots which his opponent ruthlessly exploited. Hendry also struggled to keep the cue ball under control, suggesting he needs time to come to terms with the slicker, match-table cloths.

Where does he go from here?

Stephen Hendry hopes to return to the Crucible (Malcolm Croft/PA)

Hendry’s claim that he is now targeting 800 career centuries – Tuesday’s nudged his total up to 776 – suggests he intends to make full use of his two-year tour card. His next event will be the World Championship qualifiers in Sheffield next month. He will have to fight through four qualifying rounds in order to reach the Crucible for the first time since 2012.

And will he make it?

Stephen Hendry’s old rival Jimmy White has failed to get through qualifying (David Muscroft/PA)

After his performance against Selt, he will perhaps not be so swiftly written off. But it is a mighty ask to come through four long matches – at least two of which will involve facing opponents of or even better than Selt’s calibre. For context, Hendry’s old rival Jimmy White, who beat the Scot in last year’s World Seniors Championship, has tried and failed to qualify for each of the last 14 years.

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