Mark Selby cannot bear the thought of sending Stephen Hendry into retirement but victory over the Scot in their Crucible clash could have just that impact.
Hendry dropped a heavy hint after his first-round win over Joe Perry that this may be his final World Championship. The veteran Scot, who made his debut in Sheffield 25 years ago, said that he would think about quitting even if he upsets the odds by winning an eighth world title.
He and Selby meet in the last-16 for the second year in a row, with Hendry looking for revenge after a crushing 13-5 defeat 12 months ago. The prospect of Hendry walking away from the sport after their encounter, which begins today, continues tomorrow and concludes on Monday, is not one which Selby relishes.
"It'd be nice to win, but if that was the case I'd feel a bit guilty," Selby said. The Leicester potter predicts that Hendry would play on if he retains his top-16 ranking, but that decision is at the whim of the 42-year-old.
"I still think he loves the game. It's in his heart and he shows that with the passion when he wins big matches sometimes," Selby said. "It'd be a shame if he does retire. He's great for the game and he'd be sadly missed.
"I'm sure as long as he can keep winning matches and still performing, he'll carry on playing."
If Hendry's thoughts are of a future in the commentary box, no doubt his immediate ambition is to sign off on a historic high. American tennis superstar Pete Sampras went through a barren spell in his career, as has Hendry, but signed off after winning the US Open against all expectations in 2002.
Hendry has gone six years without picking up a ranking event title, but fundamentally he knows what it takes to win at the Crucible, and should he find some consistency he could trouble Selby.
How he approaches the match against Selby, though, intrigues his opponent, particularly if Hendry is set on retirement. "I think it can work both ways," Selby said. "It can be a danger because he can think, 'I've got nothing to lose now,' but at the same time it could work as a negative and he could be trying too hard because you don't want to get beaten and go."
To 27-year-old Selby, the differences between Hendry of the 1990s, the decade in which he won all of his seven titles, and now, are hard to pinpoint.
"His aura wins him a lot of frames," Selby said. "Even though he's been struggling lately, if you look at his body language you wouldn't think he's any different.
"He still walks around the table exactly the same, winning or losing. It's going to be a tough game. I won last year but every game is different."
On a bumper weekend of snooker, a pair of former world champions square off with Ronnie O'Sullivan and Shaun Murphy starting their second-round game this afternoon.
Yesterday, Mark Williams became the first player to reach the last eight as he swiftly took the single frame he required last night to record a 13-4 success over Jamie Cope. Judd Trump looks like he will join him. He leads 11-5 lead against Martin Gould with their match resuming this morning.
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