THERE were no tears and there was no fanfare. Stephen Hendry retired from snooker at the age of 43 with the minimum of fuss, barely with a flicker of emotion.
Typical Hendry. His career was founded on being calm at the most difficult moments. |Why should that change now?
The Bairn, a nickname that stuck through his career, bowed out as a veteran, frustrated with losing to players he would have pummelled in his prime. He has business interests in China, such a lucrative market for cue sports, to attend to. A family life to uphold.
Life as a professional snooker player no longer held the appeal it had for the young Hendry, for the player who lost only three matches at the Crucible in a decade.
Opinions will always be split on the issue of snooker's greatest player. Many will still go with Steve Davis, but Hendry is by a distance the most successful of the modern era.
He never possessed the crowd-charming appeal of the likes of Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan, but bows out after a record seven Crucible titles, 36 ranking event triumphs, and 775 centuries. Fittingly he bids farewell after another outing on his most famous stage, too.
Hendry likes to joke that he passes his pipe and slippers on the way into the Crucible arena, the message being that this is where over the 27 years of his career he was at his most comfortable, his front room.
It was as a 16-year-old that Hendry turned professional, since when he has amassed £9million in prize money and racked up 127 centuries at the Crucible, three of which have been 147 maximum breaks.
The third of those maximums came in the first round this year, a day after Hendry landed back in the UK from his sixth trip of the year to China.
He was, in 1990, the youngest world champion at the age of 21, and that record stands. Until this year, he was the youngest debutant too, having been 17 years and three months old when he was beaten in the first round by Willie Thorne in 1986, until Belgian prodigy Luca Brecel took that mark away from him.
Hendry ranks right in the top bracket of Scotland's greatest sportsmen. He won the UK Championship five times and the Masters on six occasions. Hendry said he “could write a book” on his great Crucible memories.
He can leave that to the historians, though. There are records he set which will surely stand for decades to come, footage of his great victories lives on.
The day he came from |14-8 behind to beat Jimmy White in the 1992 World Championship final stands out. He beat White in four Crucible finals, and White always vowed he would fight on to prevent Hendry winning an eighth.
Hendry will play exhibitions and has already shone as a broadcaster. He was supremely calm last night in announcing his career was finished, but as he remarked earlier this year, being behind a microphone is second best to being in the thick of tournament play. “Nothing is going to substitute being in there and playing,” Hendry said.
Matthew Stevens completed a remarkable turnaround in his all-Welsh Crucible quarter-final against Ryan Day today as he clinched a 13-5 victory. The two-time former beaten finalist trailed 5-2 yesterday but won 11 frames in a row to advance – nine last night and two today.
STEPHEN HENDRY FACTFILE
1969: Born January 13 in Edinburgh.
1985: Joins the professional tour aged 16 years and three months.
1986: Becomes the youngest World Championship qualifier, a record broken by Belgium’s Luca Brecel in 2012.
1987: Wins his first ranking event.
1990: Wins his first World Championship, |along with three other tournament wins.
1992: Wins his second Crucible title. Also makes his first professional 147 break.
1994: Wins the world title for the third year in succession and the fourth time in his career.
1996: Wins his fifth successive World Championship, matching Steve Davis and Ray Reardon’s total of six.
1999: Wins the last of his seven Crucible crowns.
2012: Marks the opening day of the World Championships with a 147, his third at the Crucible.