‘Fantastic news for snooker’ - Legends Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White to meet in World Championship qualifiers

Former world champion Mark Selby hopes Jimmy White will not be handed another heartbreaking defeat at the hands of old adversary Stephen Hendry when they face off again while attempting to reach the Crucible.

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White competing at the Crucible back in 1994. Picture: Allsport UK /Allsport

Hendry, who made an eagerly anticipated comeback to the professional tour at the Gibraltar Open earlier this month after spending nearly nine years in retirement, had a famous rivalry with White during the early 1990s.

The duo memorably contested four World Championship finals in the space of five years in Sheffield, with Hendry prevailing on each occasion in 1990, 1992, 1993 and then 1994 en route to becoming a record seven-time winner.

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Despite featuring in six finals, White, 58, has never been able to get his hands on snooker’s grandest prize. The ‘Whirlwind’ last reached the main draw in 2006 - and has been a losing qualifier in every year since then.

Stephen Hendry has come out of retirement. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In order to gain entry to the first round of the 2021 Betfred World Championship, which gets under way on April 17, Hendry and White - who have a combined age of 110 - face four matches in a qualification event which starts on April 5.

The pair’s last meeting in the professional ranks went in Hendry’s favour as he won 9-8 in the last-32 of the 2010 UK Championship.

White, though, defeated his old nemesis 4-2 en route to going all the way in the World Senior Championship last August.

Selby gave his reaction to the prospect of the two greats going head-to-head once again following an impressive 10-3 win over Kyren Wilson as he coasted into the the semi-finals of the Cazoo Tour Championship at Celtic Manor.

“It is incredible, and fantastic news for snooker,” said Selby, who lifted sport’s biggest prize three times, including back-to-back triumphs in 2016 and 2017.

“Stephen coming back out of retirement and then playing Jimmy - all of those years I have watched them playing in world finals together, now they are playing in the first round of the qualifiers, you could not write it really.

“I have heard that if Stephen was to beat Jimmy, he knocks him off the tour as well, which is a bit harsh.

“I mean he has given Jimmy so many heartbreaks over the years, if that was to happen again, it is another one.

“But hopefully I would like to see Jimmy win, because if he wins, I think it keeps him on the tour and Stephen has got another year on the tour anyway, so it would be nice to see Jimmy win and stay on.”

Hendry, 52, found out the news while working in his role as a pundit for ITV at the ongoing Tour Championship.

The Scot was incredulous when he found out that White was lying in wait for him.

“All the things we have been through in our careers against each other, four world finals, various other finals, now we are at rock bottom, round one of pre-qualifying. You could not make it up,” Hendry said on ITV.

“I tried to phone Jimmy, but his phone was switched off. I did get hold of him and he said, ‘right, we are not talking until after the match’.

White is playing on an invitational card, and Hendry knows there will be plenty on the line when they go head to head once again.

“I have been told of the situation. There is probably more on the match for Jimmy,” Hendry said. “I just hope it is a good match.

“It is probably not going to be pretty, we will be twitching all over the place, but I am looking forward to it.”

Five Yorkshire players will also take part in the qualifiers.

Father and son, Peter and Oliver Lines face first-round matches against Dyland Emery and Mark Lloyd - and will need to win four games to reach the Crucible.

Rotherham’s Ashley Carty plays Michael White, while York’s Ashley Hugill tackles Aaron Hill.

Leeds’s David Grace joins in the second round stage.

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