x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Hendry will not want to slip-up

The seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry faces another potential banana skin when the Shanghai Masters begin.

SHANGHAI // The seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry, a first-round loser in the recent Northern Ireland Trophy, faces another potential banana skin when the Shanghai Masters begins in China tomorrow. Out-of-form Hendry, yet to win a match this season having lost 5-1 to Mark Selby in his opening Premier League fixture which took place on the eve of his departure to Shanghai and by the same score to Stephen Lee in Belfast, tackles the Englishman Ricky Walden or Zhang Anda, of China, for a place in the last 16.

Walden, beaten by runner-up Dave Harold in the first round of the Northern Ireland Trophy, is No 35 on the official world ranking list but is provisionally as high as 29th, with more points to come following qualification for the this tournament. Hendry, the world No 6, has dropped to 10th on the provisional rankings with any number of players waiting to move above him. But he must have breathed a sigh of relief when several of those, among them Mark Williams, Nigel Bond and Matthew Stevens, all failed to qualify for the Glasgow stage of the Royal London Watches Grand Prix next month. Hendry is at the crossroads of an immaculate career in which he has won a record 36 world ranking events, compiled over 700 centuries, earned over £8million (Dh54m) and recorded eight maximum breaks.

Last season the Scot wondered whether the "slippery slope" was staring him in the face but semi-final appearances in the Welsh Open and World Championship proved there was still life in the veteran who celebrates his 40th birthday in January. However, if he is to hold on to his coveted top-16 ranking, where he has been for a record 21 successive seasons, eight of them consecutively at No 1, Hendry's form must improve. It's been nearly four years since he won a ranking event with his last final appearance, in the 2006 UK Championship.

The title holder Dominic Dale should progress to the last 16 at the expense of Steve Davis and so too should the world No 1 Ronnie O'Sullivan, who is up against Stuart Pettman Jimmy White makes a rare appearance in the last 32 of a ranking event but crashed out of the Grand Prix qualifiers last week, losing to Michael Holt. sports@thenational.ae