Poor Jimmy White. He's 58 years old, and his best days are well behind him, but there was one thing he had going for him in his quest to keep his snooker tour card, he didn't have Stephen Hendry to quash his hopes and dreams anymore. Or so he thought.
Hendry retired from the game nine years ago. But now he's back. And in his second professional game in nearly a decade, it made perfect sense he'd be thrown back in against Jimmy White, and that once again he'd be beating him. Hendry beat his old rival 6-3 yesterday in the first round of qualifying for the World Championship.
The sometimes sad world of World Championship qualifying is often the place for names of the past to resurface in less than glamorous ways. In a non physical sport like snooker, legends of the game remain just competitive enough to plough on and hope to rediscover the form of the past but, usually, it remains elusive.
We may never see a greater example than the game yesterday pitting the seven time World Champion Hendry and the six time runner-up White. Famously, Hendry defeated White in four out of five Crucible finals between 1990 and 1994. In the sole occasion he didn't fall to Hendry, White finished as runner-up to John Parrott in 1991. White's five final defeats in a row rival any of sport's infamous nearly stories, but his 1994 18-17 defeat to Hendry will go down in history as perhaps the nearest miss of them all.
With White in the balls and ahead in the deciding frame, he missed a black off its spot and handed the table over to Hendry, who cleaned up. White would never make the biggest stage again.
Snooker wasn't quite at the heights of the mid 1980s when the Hendry/White saga was playing out, but their finals still attracted huge audiences. Unfortunately, now, 23 years after their last Crucible meeting (which White won incidentally), and 27 since their last final meeting, they were back at it in the first qualifying round in the tournament, battling for the right to play Xu Si in the second round, a player who was born in 1998.
Unfortunately, the star power of yesteryear might still be there, but the form is lacking. Hendry, coming off such a long layoff, was beaten 4-1 in the first round of the Gibraltar Open last month. Having made his Crucible debut in 1981, White has lost in qualifying for the tournament every year since 2006.
In the end, the performances of both players reflected their current status rather than the glories of the past. The highlight of a dour match was a 66 clearance from Hendry to wrap up the sixth frame of the match when White had led by 61.
Ultimately, Hendry's form was slightly less terrible than White's and he prevailed 6-3. Afterwards, he dismissed any chance he had of making the tournament proper this year, while White was considering his future entirely.
In other first round action, Ireland's Ken Doherty, the man who ended Stephen Hendry's run of five world titles in a row in 1997, currently leads Lee Walker by four frames to one, while there's an all Irish (and all Fergal) tie on Wednesday morning between Fergal O'Brien and 21-year-old Fergal Quinn.