Stephen Hendry avoided embarrassment at the British Open in Leicester as he came through a scrappy first round encounter with Chris Wakelin. The win represents his first in a main draw since returning to the sport, having previously retired in 2012.
The seven-time world champion made the decision to give professional snooker another go last year, but results have not been as good as he may have hoped- however the 52-year-old showed signs of progress in the victory at the Morningside Arena.
The match was a tense affair, particularly after Wakelin managed to take the arduous fourth frame and force a decider. Hendry hadn’t played in front of a crowd since losing at the World Championships to Stephen Maguire in 2012.
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Hendry however was able to close out the match in the final frame and now advances to the second round, where he will face either Fergal O’Brien or Gary Wilson.
While there was some degree of returning to form for Hendry, it certainly wasn’t the snooker legend’s finest outing. His highest break of the match was just 47, and the quality of the contest was mocked on Twitter by Hendry’s long-time friend and fellow snooker player Mark Williams.
Williams wrote: “This ain’t the worst match I have ever seen – but it’s certainly in the top two.”
Speaking after the win, Hendry recognised that there was still a long way to go in order to truly compete but felt that there were signs of promise that he was regaining some of his old form.
Hendry said: “I am very pleased to win the match, that is the aim – to get the ‘W’.
“There was good stuff in there, but I am also looking at the stats.
“A highest break of 47 – I had lots of chances to make more than that and my scoring has got to be better.
“I was creating openings and not capitalising.
“Match sharpness is a big thing, being out there in the pit. You have to get that feeling back, and that composure.
“I am hitting the ball well and it is getting better and better every day. That is encouraging. I know it has to get better, but I am delighted to win.”
Also in action on Tuesday were Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy, who faced off in a rematch of this year’s World Championship final. As in May, Selby got the better of Murphy, winning 3-2.
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