Stephen Hendry began his new snooker campaign with a fortuitous win in Preston tonight.
“I got out of jail,” agreed the seven times world champion after beating fellow Scot Jamie Burnett 5-4 at the £400,000 (€579,500) Totesport Grand Prix.
“I struggled all the way through,” added Hendry, who feared the worst with Burnett 4-3 up and on a potential match-winning break in frame eight.
However, after potting the final red to lead by a point, the world number 46 missed a tricky black and Hendry gratefully forced a decider.
The world number three cued his way into a 65-0 lead but again broke down with the match in his grasp.
“I thought Jamie would clear up when I missed the red into a middle pocket,” said 35-year-old Hendry, playing for the first occasion since becoming a dad for a second time.
“He was certainly the stronger player in the closing frames. But I always struggle in scrappy matches like that. It’s been my Achilles heel throughout my career.”
Fortunately for Hendry, Burnett could not seize the moment and eventually lost the ninth frame 121 points to nil.
“The most frustrating thing is I’ve been flying in practice. I know a lot of players say that but it’s true in my case. I’ve been working on two or three things with Terry Griffiths but when I got out there it was a real struggle. When things start to go against me my concentration begins to waiver.”
Hendry certainly believed the omens were against him as Burnett fluked balls at regular intervals and also won the second frame when his opponent went in-off the final black.
Burnett led 2-1 and 4-3, helped by a 78 break, before Hendry salvaged his place in the second round against Robert Milkins or Rory McLeod.
“I’ve been putting in the work since the baby (Carter) arrived even though I’ve been coming to the club a bit tired,” he smiled.
Former world champion Peter Ebdon enjoyed a more comfortable passage against Yorkshire qualifier Simon Bedford.
He knocked in breaks of 75, 61 and 56 to set-up a last 32 match against Mark King or Joe Jogia.
Malta’s Tony Drago gained an excellent victory over Chinese prospect Jin Long, making his first appearance in the final stages of a ranking event.
However, thing looked bleak when he trailed 3-0. But Drago rallied with the next five frames and awaits the winner of Steve Davis’ match with Sean Storey.
Former British Open champion and 1995 world championship runner-up Nigel Bond defeated Gerard Greene 5-2 in another first round clash.