Stephen Hendry on Facing Jimmy White: ‘It’s a Dream Draw’

The eagerly anticipated match will take place on Monday, April 5th at 7:30pm UK time.

One tie immediately grabbed the headlines after the draw for the World Snooker Championship qualifiers was announced on Wednesday – Stephen Hendry versus Jimmy White.

It’ll mark the eighth time that the pair has crossed paths in a World Championship encounter and a first since they met in the first round proper 23 years ago.

On that occasion, the Whirlwind was a surprise winner, but their most famous battles came in four finals between 1990 and 1994 in which Hendry consigned the Londoner to one painful defeat after another at the Crucible Theatre.

More than three decades after their first encounter in the 1988 edition, Hendry has talked about his excitement ahead of the huge battle with White in just over a week’s time.

“I’m actually really looking forward to it now,” the seven-time world champion told the World Snooker Tour following the announcement of the draw earlier this week.

“It’s kind of a dream draw, because we just know each other so well and there’s so much history. It’s probably the last time we’ll ever play competitively – I know we play in the Seniors – but in a proper World Championship.”

“My favourite final personally was the 18-5 or 18-4, whatever it was, because for that whole championship I felt I played some of my best snooker.

“To finish a final a session early was something I had seen Steve (Davis) do and it was something that I wanted to do to prove my dominance in the game.

Upon being quizzed about having any regrets that White never won a world title, Hendry responded: “Why would I? It has nothing to do with me.”

“It’s sport – it’s not about cheering other people – it’s an individual sport. He was my hero when I started playing and when he was up against Steve Davis in the final I wanted him to win, but once I’m a professional snooker player it’s not down to me.

“I love Jimmy and I think you couldn’t meet a nicer guy, but at the end of the day we’re all out there to try and win, and it’s not my job to feel sorry or regret for anyone else.

“There were times when I was a little bit envious (of White’s support) and there were times in finals when I’d walk out into boos – he had like 99% of the crowd with him.

“It spurred me on and it obviously made me more determined to win, but yeah there’s times when you think ‘it’d be nice to be popular,’ but that’s just the way it was.”

“I’m sure if you asked Jimmy he would swap that popularity for having a world title under his arm, but it was just a fantastic atmosphere to play under.

“To walk through those curtains into a wall of noise and to think that pretty much everyone is against you, it’s quite a challenge.”

After Hendry revealed his intentions to return to the Main Tour at the start of this season, the Scot has been practicing with White on a regular basis, although both players have already quipped that those sessions have ended for now.

“Generally he’s been taking me apart. Jimmy’s stayed on the tour and I’ve retired for nine years, so he’s still got that competitive spark about him.”

“I’ve won a couple of sets, but more often than not he’s taken me apart – his game has been better than mine, but I think the slate will be wiped clean when we play in the world qualifiers because it’s a whole different scenario.”

While Hendry is guaranteed at least another year on the circuit thanks to his invitational tour card, White must win this match to keep alive his chances of staying on the tour.

The veteran 58 year-old is currently in the top eight highest earners from this term who are not already guaranteed a spot for next season – which would grant him with a fresh two-year card – but a first-round reverse in the preliminaries would probably see others overtake him in that order of merit list.

“If I win or lose, it doesn’t really change my situation,” Hendry concluded. “Next season I will play in more events but it won’t be every event, whereas Jimmy still plays in everything.”

“So it’s going to be a big thing for Jimmy, and if I did do it (beat him), it would be a bittersweet moment, there’s no doubt about it.

“At the end of the day it’s a snooker match – he’s trying to beat me and I’ll be trying to beat him.”

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