Stephen Hendry will target 800 centuries and a return to the Crucible after making an impressive return to the professional snooker tour despite a 4-1 defeat to Matthew Selt in Milton Keynes on Tuesday.
The seven-times world champion compiled the 776th three-figure break of his career in the second frame of the Gibraltar Open first-round match, extending a mark that had stood for so long it forms part of his permanent social media handles.
“I think I’ll only change them when I get to 800 — 776 now is not a massive thing,” said the 52-year-old. “Qualifying for the Crucible is the goal, and making 800 centuries is another goal. I am just enjoying being back really.”
Hendry did little wrong in his first tour match since a 13-2 humbling by Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals of the 2012 World Championship.
Despite a foul on his very first shot, Hendry showed he ws equipped for the challenge, compiling a superb break of 107 to level the match in the second frame.
An immediate response of 65 set Selt up to nudge back in front at 2-1. A break of 48 proved enough for him to extend his lead and he closed down his friend’s comeback with a 4-1 win.
Hendry added: “I really felt the nerves. When I put my suit on in the hotel room that’s when it really hit me, which is a good sign because without nerves you can’t perform.”
Hendry will next set his sights on an unlikely return to the Crucible via four tough qualifying rounds next month, but admitted: “My safety has to be tighter and my long game has to be better—it’s not ready yet to qualify for the Crucible.”
Hendry’s return has been described as a “strange one” by world number one Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan warned he would be plunged into a “rat race”.
The Gibraltar Open was moved to the British town of Milton Keynes because of the coronavirus pandemic.