Stephen Hendry’s first shot back on tour for almost nine years may have been a foul – but it wasn’t long before the world got to see what all the comeback fuss was about.
At 52, the record seven-times World Championship winner was giving it another throw of the dice in the inadequate setting of the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes behind closed doors.
Hendry, who accepted World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn’s offer of a two-year invitational wild-card tour place back in September, has taken his time to come back to the table.
There were false starts including cold feet about the lack of fans and his own level of preparation. But finally, the day arrived up against good friend and practice and golfing partner Matt Selt.
But in frame two the winner of 36 ranking titles and No1 for a total of nine years was back in business, rolling back the years to add to his sizeable century-break tally with a run of 107.
Hendry in his pomp had an explosive if straightforward approach. See long red, pot long red, hold for the black, go into the pack of reds as soon as possible, and win the frame at a single visit.
Trailing Selt 1-0 after the opener, the Scot’s compiling of the points was more sedate and methodical, but the steely-eyed determination and competitive streak were undimmed.
Since 2012 Hendry’s social media handle on Twitter has been ‘SHendry775’ over his then-record haul, since overtaken by Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Judd Trump.
An open draw could have been kinder, but the main box of being competitive and not being embarrassed for the most part was ticked.
Hendry said: “It was great, I felt the nerves when I put the suit on. My stomach was tight driving up. I felt nervous, which is a good sign.
“Without nerves, you cannot perform, but it needs to be nerves of excitement and expectations and not knowing what is going on.
“I was quite happy, I didn't miss anything easy, I need to cut out unforced errors, I thought Matt played fantastic, he didn't miss a ball. But I am delighted to hit a century on my return.
“Matt played brilliantly, but my game isn't good enough yet, there is work to do, and a month of practice to get it better.
“I will only change my social media profile on the centuries if I get to 800. 776 now isn’t a massive thing for me.” Selt, who said earlier in the week he’d be “about as popular as the man that shot Bambi’s mum” if he won, will now have to deal with that.
And for Hendry, the next challenge will be attempting to win four gruelling world championship qualifying matches in Sheffield to try and get back to the Crucible, the arena he made his own for a decade in the 1990s.