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Was Stephen Hendry the greatest of them all?

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Ben Dirs | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 2 May 2012

It is said that professional sportspeople die twice: first when their career ends and again when they draw their last breath. As with real life, the end of a sportsperson's career is less likely to be sudden than more of a drawn-out affair.

For Stephen Hendry, his unedifying defeat by Stephen Maguire at the Crucible on Tuesday was the last stirrings of a sporting career in terminal decline. By Hendry's own admission, he had been descending the "slow, slippery slope" for the best part of 10 years.

Even when he was making his 11th career 147 against Stuart Bingham last week and savaging defending champion John Higgins in the second round, Hendry, the perfectionist's perfectionist, knew he was nowhere near to being back to his best. "Did I really play that well?" he said. "I don't think so."

Different sports allow their legends to age with different levels of dignity. When a footballer's legs go, they have no option but to quit. When a tennis player burns out, they either quit or they fast disappear from the rankings. But the non-athletic nature of snooker means its legends invariably play on: stalking past glories, their often agonising death throes on display for all to witness.

Not every snooker player's career fizzles out in pain. Higgins once said that while Steve Davis loves snooker, Stephen Hendry loves winning. Which would explain why Davis is still not retired, 17 years after capturing his last ranking event and 23 years after winning his sixth and last world title.

While for Davis, the experience of World Championship qualifying, involving as it does battling young hopefuls and faded stars in a cavernous, partitioned sports hall, is just about bearable, for Hendry it was demeaning.

Stephen Hendry announced his retirement after a 13-2 defeat by Stephen Maguire. Photo: Getty

"The only people watching were my opponent's family on their big day," said the 43-year-old, who was forced to qualify for the Crucible this year for the first time since 1988. "Without meaning to be disrespectful, it's not a big day for me, I'm just there trying to survive."

Only last week, Hendry gave me an insight into just how great his love of winning was: "It's nice when you're beating an opponent and you're kicking him when he's down," said the Scot. "That's what sport is all about, the only reason for playing." An ideal epitaph, but his comments made some readers queasy.

Indeed, Hendry's winning made British sports fans feel uneasy throughout his career, especially during his glorious 1990s when he won his record - and perhaps never to be surpassed - seven world titles.

"I am not a superstar in Britain," Hendry told the BBC in 2008. "In Britain we don't appreciate people who have been a major success in sport. It is grudgingly given to you. If you just practise, work hard every day, win tournaments and don't go out doing whatever [so-called characters] do, you are boring and no-one wants anything to do with you.

"Even when I used to play Jimmy White in Scotland, he would have the majority of the support. Jimmy was their favourite, he is one of those characters, I suppose. Jimmy was great to watch - but what did he win?"

It is Hendry's misfortune that the general sports fan in Britain is shot through with a rather sentimental streak: "Yes, Stephen, but why did 'our' Jimmy not win? Because you kept on beating him, you miserable old thing."

Even by British standards, snooker is more misty-eyed than most sports. Hence why the discussion even takes place as to who is the greatest to have ever picked up a cue. Seven world titles say it's Hendry; 27 consecutive Crucible appearances say it's Hendry; 36 ranking titles says it's Hendry; 775 century breaks say it's Hendry; 11 147s say it's Hendry. But someone will always raise a hand, wipe away a tear and bring up Alex Higgins' 'miracle break' in 1982.

Before anyone cries "hypocrite", I will admit I am guilty as charged. A couple of weeks back, I wrote a blog hailing Ronnie O'Sullivan as a snooker game-changer, someone who changed the face of his sport. In terms of aesthetics, decoration and glitter, I stand by my point. But in terms of bricks and mortar, of relocating the very foundations of snooker, Hendry was, and is, the main man.

Perhaps only Babe Ruth, who transformed baseball completely in the 1920s with his power-hitting, has had such an impact on an individual sport. Fluid and aggressive, a fearless long-potter and a rapacious break-builder, the young Hendry confused as much as excited the fusty, traditional world of 1980s snooker.

It irked Hendry that some people viewed Judd Trump's expansive game as a great leap forward: "Everyone goes on about how attacking it is, but that's exactly how I won World Championships. It's nothing new." But 'snooker people' - those well-versed in this most esoteric of sports - knew the truth.

"One of my greatest heroes is Tiger Woods," said Hendry following his retirement announcement. "He said 'as long as you're in the discussion [as to who the greatest in your sport is], you've done all right'."

Done all right? Thankfully, the dead don't usually write their own eulogies. It's a shame Hendry didn't feel more loved while he was playing the game. Luckily, unlike with a real funeral, Hendry is still around to lap up the more florid - and infinitely more accurate - eulogies that will flood in over the coming days.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Hendry has achieved the greatest amount in the sport so by that measure it's reasonable to call him the greatest.

    I'm amazed how few journos have failed to mention Hendry's revelation (it had been obvious to his fans) in 2010 that he'd been battling the "yips" for 10 years. It was clearly evidenced in the twitch he had on the missed pink in the Maguire match - a frame-ball pink missed off the spot by 6 inches.

    Seeing his game utterly collapse in the high pressure matches because of this crippling psychological affliction was often gutting for his supporters. It has ruined the careers of many a top sportsman - Bernard Langer for example - and unfortunately blighted Hendry's genius in the latter half of his career.

    Anyone else would probably have walked away years ago but he battled on regardless and even made a World semi final in 2008.

    Thanks for the memories Stephen. Simply, the best.

  • Comment number 2.

    No-one ever mentions Joe Davis these days!

    Different era. Competition not so brilliant but he won for 14 consecutive years 1927 to 1940 then the first one after the 2nd World war in 1946.

    It all Steve Davies and Stephen Hendry in the article though.....

  • Comment number 3.

    He was a warrior, that's for sure.
    And I think the greatest ever too. The fact he was still going up to now is great in itself.

  • Comment number 4.

    Absolutely no doubt he was the best snooker player ever.

    Being the best is not about being the biggest character.

    I think Hendry's downfall in him being lauded the best the fact he played snooker. As hard a game as it is, as exciting as it is to watch sometimes, the aim of the game is to pot enough balls to win the frame. Hendry did that time and time and time againe.

    TW in his prime was a machine, mechanical, but because by its very nature golf has other facets such as the weather and the way other players play the course - it makes it more exciting. To win you have to get the golf ball in the hole, and TW played outrageous shots as Hendry did on the snooker table - but I think because its snooker he isn't up there mentioned with the greatest - which is such a shame. I fear a similar fate will befall Phil Taylor

  • Comment number 5.

    This guy is just another typical Capricorn!! He and others won't particularly like hearing that, or simply dismiss it, until I mention one or two other 'Caps' - like Muhammed Ali and Sir Alex Ferguson.
    Do you see the mentality now?

  • Comment number 6.

    Two things:

    "Jimmy was great to watch - but what did he win?"

    I'm a bit surprised Hendry said this. Yes, Jimmy never won the world title when he should have won it on at least four occasions ('82, '84, '92 and '94), but he won the UK Championship, the Masters, the Grand Prix, Pot Black, and plenty of other titles. It's a bit disrespectful to suggest that he's had a failed career and was just "good to watch" when his record shows otherwise - same as Bobby George was unfairly labelled a "showman" by Sid Waddell despite reaching two World Championship finals and winning the News of the World twice, among other titles.

    And while I'm on the subject of darts:

    "Perhaps only Babe Ruth, who transformed baseball completely in the 1920s with his power-hitting, has had such an impact on an individual sport."

    Phil Taylor, anyone? I know you said 'perhaps', but that was a massive oversight. Hell, you STILL haven't mentioned Dick Fosbury, despite now having two articles in a matter of weeks that have talked about people who 'transformed' their chosen sports. Without him, the high jump would never have progressed to anywhere near where it is today.

    As for Hendry? It's a shame he's gone out in such a disappointing manner, but it was a terrific tournament and in a way it's nice that he's been beaten by one of his younger former practice partners, and perhaps if Maguire goes on to win the title we can see this as a torch-passing moment.

    Thanks for everything, Stephen. I look forward to your full-time BBC commentary/punditry commitments.

  • Comment number 7.

    Like Steve Davis before him Hendry suffered for likeability due to being the top dog in the snooker world and by being utterly ruthless in his approach to get there.

    Personally I grew to like Davis more as a commentator than I ever did as a snooker player. As for Hendry, let's hope with time that people come to appreciate the man over the player. But also let's hope for the sake of snooker as a TV sport that someone else of similar talent rises to the top of the game in the future.

    Hendry fantastic player, cudos for knowing when to retire!

  • Comment number 8.

    Sad news, but I fully understand why Stephen has taken this decision. I just want to say that it was Hendry who made me pick up a cue all those years ago in the early 90's and I am so happy that he was able to sign off by making another 147 at the Crucible. The perfect ending to a fantastic career. Thank you Stephen Hendry for all the years of entertainment and flawless, game-changing snooker.

  • Comment number 9.

    English people like it pink and fluffy with a touch of the eccentric. Normal people who are diligent and successful are disregarded. Hendry is the best snooker player of all time. Every statistic backs up that claim. End of.

  • Comment number 10.

    Is he the greatest ever? Yes. Nuff said.

  • Comment number 11.

    Debates such as this quite often descend into a bit of silliness because people have different yardsticks for what makes someone 'the best'. As a result some find it hard to fathom why someone differs from their opinion when by their own measurement it can only be one person.

    However, as this article mentions, by any reasonable yardstick, Hendry is the greatest player to pick up a cue.

    Titles, consistency (during his peak years), century breaks, 147's, gap between first and second in the rankings... It's Hendry by a mile.

    The only factor that anyone questions him on is the aesthetic of his game and his personality. But this has always been a flimsy foundation to build an argument for O'Sullivan or Higgins on. If one looks at tennis, McEnroe had the passion and flair that some say Borg and Federer lacked, but as good as JM was, the other two are (rightly) rated above him because of how much they won. In football, Messi can do things that are re-defining our perception of football, however his lack of international success is held against him compared to Pele and Maradonna. The difference between natural skill (of which Messi is quite possibly the most blessed) is not the be all and end all, you have to win everything (you realistically can) as well if you want to be the best. If you stand two sportsmen or women next to each other, one of whom is acknowledged to be the most naturally talented competitor in the history of the sport and they other has won everything that can be won, I guarantee the former will envy the latter more.

    Flair and personality are definitely part of a players game. But only in the same way that temperament and consistency are. If O'Sullivan had Hendry's temperament and drive, he'd have won 7+ World titles... But he doesn't, so he hasn't.

    As for Hendry's comments that he was never appreciated as much as he should have been, I would take issue with this. I don't think at any time has anyone seriously questioned the immensity of his achievements and talents. I suspect his gripe is more that the public never LIKED him quite as much as Jimmy White or Ronnie O'Sullivan. This is almost certainly true, but again I guarantee you White would trade the fan clubs and the popularity for having won a few of those six World Championship finals he lost.

  • Comment number 12.

    A true winner, grew up watching Hendry dominate the sport. His determination for winning alway made me a fan, like Schumacher one of the most salient sportsmen around.

  • Comment number 13.

    Did someone seriously just list winning Pot-Black as a serious career achievement?

    I'm pretty sure James Hunt once won Celebrity It's A Knock-out... A travesty this is over-looked when people go on and on about his F1 achievements!

  • Comment number 14.

    There's no doubt Hendry is the greatest. Admittedly I was Jimmy White fan and never ever supported Hendry but I found myself frustrated time after time watching Stephen beat him, more often than not psychologically. Hendry was and is in a class of his own. Tennis players are judged by the amount of Grand Slams they win, so snooker players should be judged not only on world championships but ranking tournaments - this means Hendry is top of the pile. What a player, what a winner!!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    legend

    thank you

  • Comment number 16.

    Hendry is similar to Steve Davis in that no one really liked him much when he kept winning tournament after tournament. On the other hand, if he keeps going like Davis (which is probably doubtful), then he may well get more fans.

  • Comment number 17.

    A born winner. Gutted he's hanging up the cue. An absolute monster of the sport.

    Just a legend.

  • Comment number 18.

    I remember when Stephen Hendry used to play Jimmy White in London and every person in the crowd was behind Jimmy, but the more they cheered for Jimmy the more determined Stephen became to win. Most other players would have wilted in such hostile arenas, but Stephen thrived. The best ever? yes I think so

  • Comment number 19.

    Hendry has been a game changer in snooker. In my eyes the best ever. http://playwithflair.com/2012/04/21/ronnie-osullivan-or-stephen-hendry/

  • Comment number 20.

    Hendry was a fantastic player, but never appeared to be a particularly likeable character. I don't think that was down to him being successful, he just appeared to have a personality that left people a bit cold. His comments about Jimmy White in this article are staggeringly disrespectful and out of order; if you want to understand why some people didn't take to Hendry, you need to look no further.

    O'Sullivan a far more talented player in my book.

  • Comment number 21.

    What Judd Trump, Robertson and a few of the other younger, newer players are being lauded for is precisely what Hendry was doing over twenty years ago. The clinical break building, the ruthless putting to the sword of opponents and just the way he could make shots noone seemed to consider make him the greatest.

    There have been many greats, but Snooker as it is today owes a hell of a lot to Hendry and is style and professionalism (Though Barry Hearn will probably try to take that credit too)

  • Comment number 22.

    He's great, but bare statistics don't make him the greatest necessarily. Ryan Giggs is terrific too, and has the most PL winner medals - but does that make him a better player than Charlton or Best or Dalglish? No - its a reflection of the era he was in, his allies and his rivals. Schumacher has more titles than Senna, Fangio, Clark or Lauda. He still wasn't better than them though! Indeed by the titles reckoning, Stirling Moss is no Jacques Villeneuve....

    Hendry dominated White, his principal rival because he had greater mental fortitude. His era ended not through age or decline, but because O'Sullivan, Williams and Higgins emerged as new improved versions as he had himself done to Davis. Hendry was the greatest of the 1990s. Greatest ever? No, just part of the discussion...

  • Comment number 23.

    First sportsman I saw completely obliterate the field. He's up there with Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher as sportsmen in the last 25 year who have totally dominated all around them. Growing up he was my favourite player by far because he could do things that no-one else could and being a youngster it was unbelievable to watch. Yes I enjoyed watching Jimmy White and some of the things he did but I couldn't help but marvel at the way Hendry could take him apart. Sportsmen like him come along and it takes years for everyone else to catch them up.

    I love watching Ronnie play and he's got such a gift but while Ronnie shows in glimpses just how good he can be, Hendry used to show frame after frame after frame just how ruthless and brilliant he was. I'll always remember him as being the first great sportsman of my time.

  • Comment number 24.

    The man is the most successful player ever and I'd have to say the best ever. I'd also say that Ronnie is the most talented at snooker, more than Hendry. But Hendry's temperament is better at channeling that into winning, no disrespect to RoS who tragically suffers from manic depression.

    A sign for me that Hendry was back to his best was hearing Virgo trotting out his criticisms shot selection criticisms again, like all through the 90's: "Well, he shouldn't be going for this shot! OK, it's gone in like the last 850 I've criticised but he shouldn't have gone for it."

    You're slightly outranked in opinion qualification, John. But you are the man who gave us the priceless, "Where's the white going? WHERE'S THE WHITE GOING?" so not to worry :-)

    (Less loveable is the much whinier version from Willie, who can't rate a shot without giving bleedin' odds: "It's a 6 out of 9 this shot, maybe 5 out of 8" etc etc :-)


    @ 2 11:17 2nd May 2012, Malc0lmM
    No-one ever mentions Joe Davis these days!

    No, not least because it was sixty-eighty years ago. Clive Everton discussed the merits of JD again SH as best player ever in a well-written chapter of one of his books. Davis set up the WC so that contenders knocked each other out then he as reigning champion played only in the final. Always gave people a points start so he could never lose evenly. Terrific player but against a deserted field compared to what SH had to win against.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hendry's comments re: hating it if someone made a 147 against him, kicking his opponent when he's down, and so forth are amoung the best things I have read all week.

    I know SH is Scottish, but if only some of the petulant idiots in the English football team had an ounce of this type of thinking in their tiny skulls... they might occasionally perform!

  • Comment number 26.

    # 22

    you cant compare snooker to football because its 11 men on a team not one - so that particular comparison is a none starter

    Higgins, O'Sullivan and Williams have not dominated the sport over a consistent period of time like Hendry did.

    Interesting points on F1 though

  • Comment number 27.

    A very short and simple answer to the question asked.

    Yes

  • Comment number 28.

    "But in terms of bricks and mortar, of relocating the very foundations of snooker, Hendry was, and is, the main man."

    Nonsense, it was Davis who lead the game away from pub game to professionalism. As far as being the best, that can be judged by whether the sport will miss him and due to his attitude I'm going to say that's unlikely.

  • Comment number 29.

    firstly there should be no comparisons to woods and hendry. Woods is 4 majors behind the best ever jack nickalaus..jack was in a very tough era of watson, palmer, gary player, jonny miller etc.

    Woods had errrr ernie els???

    Back to hendry. Hendry gets lauded as this robotic player, yet in fact he is a very agressive player. He practically invented the shot from the blue spot into the reds to smash them up. He is always looking the break the reds up from the black at every opportunity.

    In his prime his agressive style was practically unplayable, he had juds long pot sucess with this clinical break building. Throw in the temperment and you got the best player ever imo.

    Ronny should be, but the guy cant hold consistant form. 2008 was ronnie at his best. Although he showed some of those signs against mark williams.

    my pick is neil roberson., i betted on him pre tourney...

  • Comment number 30.

    I think the points made with F1 is a little unjust as the greats of old unquestionably had the talent, however you could argue they did not have the fitness. Schumacher dominated in a time where fitness was key as aerodynamics became so essential compared to raw speed, this subsequently had a huge effect on the soft fleshy thing in the middle of the car.

    But like all sports it evolves, the greats of snookers yesteryears made the game what it is and players like Higgins, Davis, Hendry, O'Sullivan have each evolved it into something slightly different.

  • Comment number 31.

    #24 Its "Where's the cue ball going".

    Hendry is the greatest.

  • Comment number 32.

    definately the most sucessful snooker player ever, so arguably the greatest. However :

    "Perhaps only Babe Ruth, who transformed baseball completely in the 1920s with his power-hitting, has had such an impact on an individual sport."

    Not true even in snooker. He was the best and broke the records, Steve and Joe Davis both transformed the sport that he was arguably the greatest at.

  • Comment number 33.

    Stephen Hendry is undoubtedly the greatest snooker player ever. There shouldn't even be a question mark against this.

    I don't play snooker. There was once a time when I even hated watching snooker and thought it was boring. Then along came Hendry. An attacking style that changed the game. In the mid-90's I only wanted to see him.

    He is absolutely correct when he points to players like Judd Trump merely doing today what he once did. I would concede however that there are several modern players that have added an excellent safety game that Hendry didn't have or couldn't match. But significantly he didn't need this at his peak. And it was because of Hendry raising the bar that the game has evolved to the supreme standard we see today - both in an attacking and safety sense.

    I believe that Hendry has called his retirement at the right time too. He hinted at it last year. His reasoning is honest and fair. And I believe that inside of him he knows tournaments like his last at the Crucible highlight perfectly why now is the time in a playing sense too. He scores a 147. Amazing. He looks back to his best in a session against Bingham. He then trounces the defending World Champion looking excellent again for a session. But in both matches he had periods where he was painfully average. Average was never good enough for a winner like Hendry. And probably it was this knowledge that he still had this ability that kept him going for so long. The question was whether he could put it all together for a whole tournament anymore? The answer was no. As a Hendry fan, after the thrills the pain of such heavy defeats was greater because the potential was evidently there.

    And finally, his comments about winning - they are just very frank and open - what he felt inside. He should be respected for that especially given the context that he still remained very modest throughout his career, would congratulate and not say a bad word for any of his opponents, however much it hurt. People should remember that and respect his achievements in the game.

    Second-to-none. A real legend. Thank you for the memories.

  • Comment number 34.

    Forgive me for being a snooker cynic but why aren't these players still battling for trophies each year at the age of 40 or 50? It's not like they have to be at the peak of physical condition to play the game!
    It's just my observation and players can only beat what's in front of them but taking into account my comment surely it's the current world champion that's the best ever...for the moment!

  • Comment number 35.

    Before Hendry you had Steve Davis. He was absolutely clinical in making his breaks. When he was in he basically never missed. He made enough to win the frame and did it time and time again.

    Then came Hendry and he was the same, only more so. And he could nail the long pots.

    So was he the greatest? I would say so. Davis next. 7 world titles for Hendry and 6 for Davis tell the tale.

  • Comment number 36.

    Stephen Hendry is of course the greatest snooker player ever to play the game.

    Hendry is also the reason I play snooker today! I used to spend ages down at Spencers snooker club in Stirling and he was in there practising all the time. He had a table in the top right hand side of the room and it was an honour even just to play on his practise table when he wasn't there.

    Thanks for the memories Stephen and good luck for the rest of your career in China etc. Hope to hear you commentating at next years Championships also

  • Comment number 37.

    Thankyou for the memories, you are the greatest!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    In my opinion (and this is just an opinion mind) Hendry was the 3rd greatest player of all time, behind Joe and Steve Davis, and just ahead of Fred Davis. His biggest advantage was that he was the right player at the right time, snooker tables had quickened a lot by the late 80's and it was Hendry who was the first to realise you could win frames in one visit by smashing open the reds early on. He then proceeded to clean up by playing a style of game that took everyone else 10 years to catch up with (not taking anything away from him, he was still easily the best player of the last 20 years with the possible exception of Ronnie at his best (although that's another story entirely!))

  • Comment number 40.

    Hendry was the M. Bison of snooker.

  • Comment number 41.

    The more comments you read the more you realise that he is definitely the greatest. The main criticisms of him all relate to his character and likeability. Fact is the record books don't lie and you can't say he hasn't played against some terrific players because he has, and he's beaten them all.

    People always say Ronnie's the most naturally gifted but Hendry's the most clinical and a natural born winner, and it is true. When Ronnie retires you can guarantee the main talking points will be that unbelievable 147 in record time and then what could and should have been, the amount of things he should have won and how he should have dominated (not saying it's his fault he's had a lot of personal demons and outside issues he's had to deal with).

    Hendry though is the perfect example of maximising your potential. He achieved everything he should have and a hell of a lot more on top. As is backed up by the records some may never be beaten, others I expect will stand for a long time to come yet.

  • Comment number 42.

    @22 - O'Sullivan, Higgins, Williams are improved versions of Hendry?
    Do me a favour. Hendry at his best would have annihilated all of those at their bests. You must have only been following the sport since 2000.

  • Comment number 43.

    It was very difficult to watch Hendry come along and take it away from White - any hope that White would rise above Davis was lost when this even bigger obstacle emerged.

    That said, Jimmy did reach Hendry's level and he should have beaten him to lift the world final. It was truly sickening when White missed his big chance in 1991 and lost to an inspired, one off wonder, John Parrot. But the 1994 final will always be remembered by me as the defining moment, probably of both White and Hendry's careers - it is the greatest snooker match I can remember. White at that stage was an absolute master of his craft, at the absolute peak of his powers. And yet the one player good enough to seize upon the rare but predictable moments of weakness that would betray White was Hendry, and to claw it back from 14-8 down to win 10 frames on the bounce was both the most gut-wrenching thing I can think of in the sport and also the best possible testimony to the incredible standard that only Hendry could've produced.

    It's easy to look back on that game and say that White bottled it, or that he threw it away. People rightly bang on about the 1985 final, but the truth is that the winner that day, just like 1991, was the sideshow. In the 1994 final both the winner and the loser left their mark on history and that is testimony to the greatness of both players in my opinion. White will always be remembered by some as a loser. He was not a loser. It was just that the competition he faced was remarkably at an even higher level than he was, and particularly in terms of matchplay.

    I would also say that whilst Hendry's winning was monotonous he was never boring to watch in the way that robots before and after him were - I'm thinking particularly of Davis and John Higgins. Both those players were obviously brilliant, but by comparison Hendry's game was not only built around steely determination and ruthless killer instinct, but it was also touched by real flare. He has to be the greatest match player ever.

  • Comment number 44.

    No doubting Stephen Hendry's wonderful record, but i felt compelled enough to register and post my thoughts as i have loved this game for over 25 years and its certainly about more than just numbers. I think it reveals a lot about Hendry when you look at the spiteful and dismissive comments he has made about Jimmy White.

    Clearly, he feels now and has always felt that winning was the most important thing. That is the surface aim of every player but Hendry forgets that without the fans there simply is no game and therefore he misses the important value of entertainment which is what sport really is. Alex Higgins made this game lest we forget! Given Stephen Hendry has won 7 world titles, I doubt if the average snooker fan would remember or care to recall a moment or single shot from those 7 world titles.

    Hendry has never understood that winning 7 times does not buy you the love of the fans because we see clearly that winning is his be all and end all. I have never seen in his play a natural love of the game as displayed by Alex Higgins, Jimmy White, or Ronnie O'Sullivan. Hendry has won more titles than these 3 men put together, but he is very foolish in thinking that this grants him automatic love and respect from the fans. Deep down he really expects this. Among those who know, Paul Hunter was also a very good courageous player, extremely good under pressure.

    Its the way you play the game that earns you the affection. This is why those who witnessed Alex Higgins's 69 break will never forget it. Hendry made however many 147's but would anyone ever forget Ronnie's first one or Kirk Stevens in the Masters. Hendry's remarks prove what a dour robotic droid he was and how much contempt he held for these other great players.

    Its a great shame that Jimmy White never won the World Championship, but he has given the snooker lover greater joy than Hendry's 'records'. Perhaps he never needed to. He certainly was not a lesser player for not winning that title and I doubt that he will be forgotten as quickly as Hendry thinks.

    The greatest player there has ever been? We all know that it is Ronnie O'Sullivan followed very closely by Alex Higgins. Alex Higgins in this era in his prime, early twenties like Trump. Very frightening!

    Ronnie really doesn't need any more titles or records to prove he is the greatest as every shot is a joy to watch. Artistry over droids any day! Greater respect goes to Steve Davis over Hendry, who gets the love back now from the fans as he has shown while still playing these past 15 years how much he genuinely loves the game. Its good to win but its better when you put your heart and soul into it. Love to play or love results?

  • Comment number 45.

    All that can be said is that he is among the sport's greats. For me there are 5 contenders...

    Ronnie O'Sullivan - still playing, still don't know just how far he will go.
    Stephen Hendry - won more than anyone else, but played longer than most, and in an era where the number of tournaments rocketed.
    Steve Davis - The guy who brought a new form of professionalism to the game, and changed it from a club game to a "serious" sport. Almost unstoppable at his best. Lost in probably the greatest ever snooker match ever televised.
    Ray Reardon - dominated the game in an era where snooker was just emerging from obscurity. Perhaps the game's first globally recognisable "personality".
    Joe Davis - the guy who started the world championship in the first place, held the title for TWENTY YEARS and NEVER LOST in the championship. Those last two items will never be equalled, and are the main reason why I would choose Joe over the others. Without JD we might not even have snooker as a global sport.

    An honourable mention must be made for Joe Davis' brother Fred, who was still playing ranking tournaments in 1992 at the age of 79. He played in the world championship first in 1937, first won in 1947, and got to the quarter finals in 1979. He is also the only player who actually beat Joe Davis on level terms (i.e. without a handicap). Wow. If a lifelong dedication to the game is the yardstick, Fred probably wins the vote by miles.

    Admittedly the game is different now - faster cloths, lighter balls etc. But I suspect the game was much more difficult back in the 30s, and most players now would struggle to build a break without the ability to screw the ball back a couple of feet whenever they needed to. With the old Crystalate or ivory balls you just couldn't do that. Hence the reason why people make 147 breaks far more frequently than ever used to be the case.

  • Comment number 46.

    As it presently stands Stephen Hendry is undoubtedly the best player to have played the game, but I think he will possibly be matched by Ronnie O'sullivan depending upon how many titles Ronnie wins before he too retires. Titles are of course the best objective way of assessing who the best players in the world are. I think though with Ronnies natural game he possibly has the capability to "last longer" than Stephen but I think with the increase in number of tournaments and the possible reluctance of the breed of players of Ronnies generation to take part in all of them, this could be difficult.

    What amazed me about Stephen Hendry, watching all his matches from the 90's to this day, was not just his brilliant technical ability, but his scary edge of the seat ability under pressure. If you watch the 94 UK final with Ken Docherty and Stephen Hendry you will see what I mean. Also that 50 odd clearance against Jimmy in the 1994 final when Jimmy missed the black in the final frame.

    As to his technical ability if you watch Hendrys technique in his glory years it is often hard to discern his cue diviating off line in any way at all with camera angles above the table or face onto him. Looking at all the other players there are today with very good techniques I still dont think anyone delivered the cue as straight and with less apparent movement, as Stephen did. His ability to hit the centre of the white was amazing and that accounted for such brilliant consistency.

    Sad to see him stop. Best of luck to you Stpehen and thanks for getting me interested in snooker and giving me the enthusiasm to come and watch you play live.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think there is no doubt that Stephen (Stan Laurel) Hendry was indeed the greatest player that snooker has seen. However I never particularly liked watching him play and what really irritated me about the man was how ungraciuos he was when beaten. The majority of players are able to acknowledge how well an opponent who had beaten them had played. Hendry however would repeatedly comment on how badly he had played as though he always expected to win and when he didn't could not acknowledge how well his then conqueror had played. Still think he had plenty to offer the game though

  • Comment number 48.

    "Phil Taylor, anyone? I know you said 'perhaps', but that was a massive oversight."

    100% agree

  • Comment number 49.

    Do you "hang up your cue"? Surely you just put it in it's case!?

    Anyway, he is the best of the last 20 years. The Joe Davis/Steve Davis/Hendry comparison is impossible to judge due to different competitors at different times. I'd still say Steve Davis is the best, due to who he was up against and he was at the forefront of the largest ever snooker revolution, but happy for people to disagree!

  • Comment number 50.

    I understand why people see Ronnie as exciting, but he's petulant and although he plays an attractive game, it doesn't give him the consistency which Hendry admitted he realised he needed when he decided to follow Steve Davis's example rather than Jimmy White's. Watch the transition from Hendry 1986-1990 and you'll see his game slowed to his playing style of today.

  • Comment number 51.

    Oh and snooker's not a sport, it's a game! Still love it though, but it's not a sport!

  • Comment number 52.

    Best break builder, best temperament, most attacking, most class on and off the table, most desire to win, best role model for any sportsperson really.

    Hendry was never petulent. Hendry never disrespected an opponent. Hendry always tried his best. Some of the things he did in his career are just incredible and personally I don't think anyone has ever come close to the standard he was playing in the early-mid 90s. Watch old videos and you will see how good he was.

    Hendry didn't need a safety game he was so good.

    Unfortunately time has caught up with the master and his long potting and concentration levels aren't what they were. Still the best break builder though.

  • Comment number 53.

    It is truly one of the most baffling thing about the British, not liking our top sportspeople or being so prepared to snigger once they've gone past their peak. In Germany, Spain, Italy and so many more, they adore their people and quite correctly are partizan in their support. Hendry & Davis suffered unpopularity due to being the best of their time and I've always believed the reason is that Britain dominates snooker, although now to a far lesser extent. Had they been the best of a multi-nationality sport, beating a host of players from many different countries then they would've been loved more like a golfer, football or tennis player.

    Both mentioned were the best of their era because they did all the things they should to be so and because of that were seen by many as boring. However, Hendry could never be accused of being boring as he went for every pot he thought was on, like no other, and compiled breaks so well that opponents could only marvel. He is the best and it will take something extraordinary to de-throne him and we haven't seen it yet.

  • Comment number 54.

    I feel really sad that he has decided to retire. I remember seeing a programme about him when he was very young. He said the first time he played he did quite well so he assumed it must be an easy game! Well, I suppose for him it was!
    I want to thank him for the hours of pleasure he gave us and wish him all the best for the future. Was he the best ever? For me yes, no question. His composure, his technique and his all round skill were sublime. I sometimes felt as though my blood pressure went down when he was constucting a big break, he was so soothing to watch. I just hope he will join the commentary team at the BBC for the future so we don't lose him altogether.

  • Comment number 55.

    He is probably 'The Best' as he's won more than anyone else. But 'The Greatest' means something else. I'm with #44 in that 'The Greatest' needs to do more than just win.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Perhaps only Babe Ruth, who transformed baseball completely in the 1920s with his power-hitting, has had such an impact on an individual sport".

    This is not so. The player who had the greatest IMPACT on the sport of snooker was without doubt Alex "Hurricane" Higgins. He brought the sport into the mainstream and made people want to watch it. The sport owes its popularity, profile and success to him.

    This is not to deny the claim that Hendry may be the greatest snooker player ever, but impact and success are two very different things.

  • Comment number 57.

    I may be bias, being a Stephen hendry fan, however I think his records speak for themself. The problem with the British pubic in general, is that they like to support
    the underdog as appose to the favourite. Hendry seemed to have more fans when he was unsuccessful which makes no sense to me.

    When people talk about the game developing I dont see anyone out there that is playing snooker that Hendry has not produced in the past. People talkabout O Sullivan being a one off, but what about Hendry - who will achieve the same as him?

    Obviously with the amount of snooker tournaments about his record for ranking tournaments can be eclipsed, however I do not believe that his world title haul will be beaten.

    For me the highest standard of snooker ever played at the World Championships was the 1999 World Championship semi finals - which was the year that Hendry. won his 7th.

  • Comment number 58.

    This a "talent" vs "dedication" argument.......and the more dedicated people are the ones that win.

    I disagree that O'Sullivan and White had more talent than Hendry and Davis. But they practised harder and were much more consistent.

    I think that that deserves huge respect. It's easy to have talent and not practice. It's hard to be highly talented and practice hard to perfect that talent.

    Hendry was the greatest of his era.

  • Comment number 59.

    I remember watching Hendry playing O'Sullivan in York a number of years ago. There had been a bit of needle between the two in previous seasons, particularly after Ronnie declared he wanted to "beat him up," or words to that effect. I was lucky enough to be sat on the front row for the match, and it was clear to see how focused and determined Hendry was, and he played unbelievable snooker in the opening four or five frames, grinding Ronnie down which prompted his infamous walk-out.

    What a great competitor.

  • Comment number 60.

    yes

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 31 (12:44 2nd May 2012, Sambassador)

    #24 [REFERRING TO JOHN VIRGO] Its "Where's the cue ball going".
    Hendry is the greatest.


    It's "Where's the white going"
    "Where's the white ball going"
    "Where's the cue ball going"

    Virgo is capable of using different words on different days you know, he's not a parrot (or even a Parrott!) :-)


    From reading people's comments about Joe Davis winning the World Championship for TWENTY YEARS: please realise this is nothing, nothing like as hard as 20 Crucible wins.

    In Joe's day, the World Championship was played over a year. Matches would take days. There were hardly any pro's and the defending champion only had to play one match: the final, which was played over a fortnight. Contenders had to enter a knockout to reach the final.

    Joe was fabulous in his day, as a competitor and for the game. But he would have a very hard time with the 90's game, let alone today.

    The game's changed too much to compare today's players to a guy at the infancy of the game, when snooker was starting to supersede billiards.

  • Comment number 62.

    Steve Davis dominated his era as much as Hendry did his, but that extra world title plus all the statistics on number of century breaks etc. put Hendry ahead in the Greatest Ever contest. Maybe if Steve and Stephen had been playing at their peak at the same time Davis would've been able to raise his game to compete century-wise, but we'll never know.
    In terms of the person who's played the best ever snooker, I personally think that, in spurts, O'Sullivan has been capable of an effortless ball-potting and positional play that no-one else has reached, and in fact would be hard to ever improve upon. But he hasn't been able to play to that standard over a long period of time.
    So in terms of high quality of snooker over a long period, winning instinct and determination and coolness under pressure, Hendry is the best.
    But that isn't why he's never been that popular with the public, nor is it that his snooker hasn't been of an exciting and entertaining brand, which it obviously has. It's because he hardly ever smiled and just never came across as being a very likable person (although he seems to be loosening up more now and allowing himself to seem a bit more human.) So everyone respected him because of his ability but would much rather Jimmy won!

  • Comment number 63.

    Hendry the best ever, yes, but not a fag paper between him Davis, Higgins, O'Sullivan all truly great players. As for Joe Davis, if he had played his snooker with cue extensions, perfect tables, ping pong balls, cloths with no napp, & pockets like buckets iam pretty sure he would have been up there with the best of today.

  • Comment number 64.

    In the assessment of Stephen Hendry as being the greatest player on the titles he won, it is not possible to consider sporting personality. You are assessing greatness ie who plays the game the best and who has won the most. He clearly won more than anyone else and that in my estimation means personality has no bearing.
    The very fact he was often ruthless in winning , is the very reason or part of the reason he won all the world championships he did, and as Stephen himself said in his recent interviews, is the very essence of high end sport. If he didn’t have this trait then he might have been perceived better in the media and to some individuals who pander mainly to an ideology of sporting stars having a personality, in making them great.
    If this is the thought process then I’m afraid that is only a self-interested negative one. What the media should be doing is looking at accomplishments and understanding that it is these results and performances that a tantamount to the enjoyment he brought to the sport, the edge of the seat matches, the clearances under pressure, and much more to speak of! I agree with Stephens comments about the media playing down sports stars and his example of Jimmy White not winning, is only served by him to demonstrate the point, not out of some distain for Jimmy, whom he has much respect.
    When Giddy_Kipper talks about Stephen as being ungracious, if you consider someone like Michael Schumacher being gracious in defeat it would be unheard of. When would you hear Schumacher congratulating his opponents, he would be thinking how he can channel his energies to winning. Stephen was concentrating his efforts on his own performances and his self-criticism is probably what drived him on when he did loose in his heyday. I always took his self-critical comments to be the measure of the man. If he hadn’t had these traits we would not have seen the amazing skills he exhibited and we should be grateful of these qualities alone in what he brought to the game for everyone’s satisfaction.
    I wasn’t asking Stephen to buy me love of the game as rubymydear23 says, the satisfaction he gave me in having the privilege to watch someone like him play the game, came from his own inner desire to win and his skills. As to fans not remembering his shots in world finals, that crazy, the final frame of the 94 final, of which he was part, was one of the most memorable finals ever.

  • Comment number 65.

    #44 RubyMyDear23 - and after reading your post i felt compelled to reply..

    It is quite clear that you are not a Stephen Hendry fan. That is ok, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. What irks is your attempts to convey your reasoning as facts, and they way you seem to have taken it upon yourself to speak for us all!

    "Hendry forgets that without the fans there simply is no game" - As a fan, i was fascinated with the way he went about destroying his competitors during the 90's, it was the first time in my young life i'd ever come across anyone in any sport who displayed such tenactiy and drive, and for me, it resonated. I used to sit there transfixed. Also, further to your point - given his domination of the 90's and your comment, you'd have thought snooker would've disappeared completely then during the 90's as all the 'fans' would've given up watching in their droves...

    "The greatest player there has ever been? We all know that it is Ronnie O'Sullivan followed very closely by Alex Higgins." - Ummmm sorry i didnt seem to get that memo, i actually happen to believe that Stephen Hendry was the best ever.

    "Its good to win but its better when you put your heart and soul into it." - Were you Stephen Hendry's advisor during the 90's? Did he actually tell you that he doesnt love the game? How can you possibly say that he didnt put his heart and soul in to it? 7 hours a day, 7 days a week is a big comittment to something, especially when if your heart isn't in it...apparently.

    Everybody is entitled to their opinions, please stop trying to pass your opinions off as fact and as everybody elses.

    A Stephen Hendry fan..

  • Comment number 66.

    Stephen deserves his retirement and has been an ambassador to the sport of Snooker. Unlike Barry Hearn who's comments about Stephen that he has made the wrong decision just show's Hearns ineptness about what the players want and typically Hearn is only after Hendry's presence to line his pockets !

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    #22, while undoubtedly the emergence of these players had an effect, without him these players would not have emerged. He raised the bar completely. He had been beating a lot of these players routinely for a few years too before they started about their winning

  • Comment number 69.

    It would appear that to some, Stephen Hendry's 'crime' is being a bit dour and not having the maverick personality or hung-ho approach of White or O'Sullivan. The question really is whether Hendry is the greatest player of all time, not whether he managed to combine this with an 'acceptable' personality, and on that basis, there's little doubt in my mind that Hendry is the best ever. As Ben Dirs rightly points out, people like O'Sullivan and White have helped to change the game and made snooker, dare I say it, more watchable, and the game needs and needed those players, likewise the Alex Higgins of this world. There's room for all types in snooker, but it just so happens that Hendry's the best to have ever picked up a cue.

  • Comment number 70.

    Most successful? Yes.

    Greatest? Not in my book.

    The former is measured in titles and trophies and not really open to debate. The latter is far more open to personal points of view and varying factors that people will always weigh differently, so that debate will always go on...

  • Comment number 71.

    Best player ever? Hendry, unarguably.

    Most successful player ever? Same answer: just count the world titles, ranking titles and the career prize-money.

    Most exciting ever? Sorry, Stephen... not you: Ronnie wins that, hands down. And before him I suppose it might have been Jimmy or Alex (Did you notice? We're on first name terms with them). And Jimmy probably gets best loved too...

    We could admire Stephen Hendry, but that didn't mean we had to like him. Maybe that'll change now he's retired. Ask Steve Davis about that one!

  • Comment number 72.

    MercThrasher is wrong in his view that sports people are there to entertain us through personality. They are but mainly, I believe, not though their personality, but from their skills and abilities. If we didnt have people like Stephen we would not be able to enjoy top sport and for that we owe him alot.

    It is the true sports fans, the people who play snooker, who love both groups MercThrasher presents. In my view Stephen was (and is) every bit the entertainer. All those centuries, balls under pressure, ridiculously good technique, 147's, etc etc.

    If you could appreciate someone for their personality as MercT presents but then not for someone who according to him is not an entertainer, you take out the bit sport is about. The skill and ability. For that I'm afraid you dont and cant have an interest in the foundations of sport.

  • Comment number 73.

    The greatest well he certainly he's up there, problem is different eras makes comparisons very difficult especially in Snooker. Statistically he has a great case but I ask you who's ever heard of S.F.Barnes? Well statistically the greatest quick bowler in Test Cricket history and by a wider margin than Hendry is with his peers in Snooker. You've all heard of Bradman apparently peerless but like many I would argue there have been better batsman who achieved greatness in far more testing conditions not Bradmans fault but just diferent eras. In Snooker I would break it down to Joe Davis, Ray Reardon, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and in my opinion the best is Ronnie O'Sullivan but it's so difficult to compare different eras.

  • Comment number 74.

    Although Hendry is obviously the most successful snooker player of this generation, he isn't 'appreciated' like others because to be appreciated you have to do something that brings pleasure to other people. All Hendry ever did was please himself.

    As somebody who is a snooker fan, all I can remember from watching him as a youngster is wishing he would miss from time to time. It was all so clinically boring to watch when he was dominating all throughout the 90's. Higgins is the same type of player - Very methodical with not much personality there. It was like watching a couple of robots play the game whenever he met Hendry.

    Hendry may be the most successful man to play the modern game, but the greatest ever? Not for me, no.

  • Comment number 75.

    I dont understand how Dick Cheeseman can consider whether you like a person in their assessment of them as a sporting great as you dont even know the person so are not in any position to say whether you like them. If you could maybe say you dont like a schumacher because he cheated then I could take the point of personality, but against Stephen Hendry who simply was partaking in a sport similarly to win at all costs, you have to admire that quality in what gets to the crux of high end sport. If he wasnt like that people would not have got the enjoyment out of how he played and what he brought from this

  • Comment number 76.

    43 Getting my finals mixed up there I see!

    Obviously was talking about the 1992 final. Didn't think either player was at their top level for much of the 94 final, although it was a great match. That really was the point where it seemed certain that White would never win the title, but there was little if anything between the two players between the two at their best in my opinion, and there was no other player at the time to get near them. Unfortunately it was Hendry who determined to prove that game after game, whilst White wasn't nearly so focused on beating the rest of the field routinely.

  • Comment number 77.

    In response to bon1ek dont you think Stephen's ;
    -endless centuries
    - pin point positional shots
    - record 147's
    - pressure clearances such as Hendrys blue with the rest against Steve Davis
    - comeback against Mike Hallett in the 91 masters
    - His pressure clearance against Jimmy in the 94 final frame
    - His wins against RO in the world finals trading centuries and again making pressure clearances,

    to name but a few, brings pleasure to people? Have you really thought this through?

  • Comment number 78.

    No-one yet is asking who they (Davis/Davis/Hendry/O'Sullivan) were playing against? The better your competitors the less time you get at the table. Therefore the closer your matches and the less chance to make centuries (one of the apparent criteria of being the best).

    Taking this into consideration I would have to go go Davis of the Steve variety to be the best. Playing through the golden era of snooker, I doubt any of the current and recently retired could have won as much at that time!

  • Comment number 79.

    The most talented and entertaining player I have ever watched has to be Ronnie O'Sullivan. A flawed genius.
    Unfortunately for Hendry and Davies before him, whilst great achievers, they were unfortunately just not as exciting.

  • Comment number 80.

    @5 OMG! That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. I feel like just looking at your comment has made me less intelligent.

    Is it possible Hendry's success can be attributed to his natural talent, mentality and endless practice and not the day of the month he was born?!

    There are countless greats throughout the sporting world, and only 12 signs of the zodiac... I'm sure each has their share of legends.

    Or maybe you've made a startling discovery into the success of sportspeople. Maybe Roger Federer saw two magpies on his way to his first tournament and has been blessed with winning luck ever since. Maybe Michael Phelps wished to be great when he blew out the candles on his 9th birthday cake and has enjoyed success in the pool since. Maybe Roy Hogson stood on a crack on the way into Anfield and that's why he was awful...

  • Comment number 81.

    Stephen Hendry, the best there ever was, and ever will be.
    I am genuinely upset that I will never see him play at the Crucible again.
    My hero since I was a young 3 year old tott holding my first cue. (21 now)
    Still my inspiration, still my hero.
    Stephen Hendry - the best.

    Tom P

  • Comment number 82.

    Ok, so my accountant is the greatest accountant ever but hang on, the guys as dull as dishwater. Does that mean he's not the greatest accountant ever? Of course it bloody doesn't!! Stephen Hendry does not need to have a dazzling, sparkling personality (that every non-Scot clearly has in the eyes of some) to be the greatest player ever. Who says sportsmen are there to entertain us and character makes them truly great? What a load of rubbish.

    Snooker is Stephen Hendry's career. It's how he earns his crust. Like a lot of people his career has become less of a priority as he's grown up, had a family etc and he's in the fortunate position where he can call time and do what he wants. People are jealous of his success and jealous that their favourite didn't win as much because Hendry was so awesome. If he's dour, arrogant, ungracious and robotic: so what!! Maybe these qualities are what it takes to be the greatest ever in your chosen profession? And the greatest will always be judged on the stats. I will accept that you can only go back so far to compare because every sport changes so much through the years, but post war, he's the greatest.

    Greatest personality - another debate and not a measure of greatness.
    Most entertaining - another debate and not a measure of greatness.
    Most flawed - another debate and not a measure of greatness.
    Most natural talent - another debate and not a measure of greatness.
    Most dour - another debate and not a measure of greatness.

  • Comment number 83.

    Sorry but I feel I have to put right a common misconception that has been posted a couple of times so far, Joe Davis only received a bye into the final of 3 of his 15 World Championships (plus one where there were only 2 entrants!) all the other times he had to work his way through the rounds just like everyone else! Yes the competition didn't have anything like the depth of today and he almost certainly wouldn't have won 15 straight titles in today's era, but please get your facts straight!

  • Comment number 84.

    snooker is not a sport, it is a game. A good game, but a game nonetheless. It is chess played with balls. Hendry is the best player of his era. I have no idea if he would have beaten Joe Davis.

  • Comment number 85.

    I am gutted Stephen Hendry has retired - grew up watching him and turning snooker in to what it is today. He is right No player is playing any different than what he done during his prime - I still beleive there is not a player out there and you can name any of them - but not one of them would have touched him in his prime he simply was the best snooker player ever to grace this game from potting to break building from attacking to safety and what memories he has left us all with. I still beleive if he had the confidence and belief he would have won and deserved to win his eighth title. No doubt about that. I honestly think its a very sad day Stephen has decided to retire he has done wonders for the game and was always a true professional throughout his career, many a people could learn a thing or two from such a Sportsman.
    Good luck to you Stephen But i still have some hope this is not the last we will see from you. Just hope you know scotland was always behind you.

  • Comment number 86.

    Ouchthathurt #65: Sorry if I made it sound like fact. I am of course merely expressing opinion. You are wrong about me not being a Hendry fan. Anyone who loves snooker is a Hendry fan-period. He raised the bar a few levels and took the game to a new standard. You are however missing the point i was making completely.

    Whilst there is great admiration for Hendry the sportsman, competitor and winner, i am questioning the very definition of greatness. I am making the argument against facts, figures and records. You are entitled to use that benchmark as many do but i think the game is more than just numbers.

    Sorry, but i stand by what I said. If Stephen truly loved the game then he should not have been so rude and dismissive of Jimmy White, who I would argue, is a reason by himself why so many of us watching, took up the game in the mid-80s and early 90's.

    Secondly, you have to understand that there are shots that Hendry or Davis would simply never attempt...for fear of losing. This is not the case with Alex Higgins, Jimmy White or O'Sullivan. Its the difference between winning at all costs or trying something impossible just to see if it would come off. An example is the blue into the top right Alex Higgins made against White in that famous 69 break.

    You are wrong about 'fans disappearing in their droves in the 90's'. That is not the point i was making. You have to understand how snooker became popular and attracted viewers. The answer and widely accepted 'fact' is Alexander Gordon Higgins. You can have players who pot balls very well or you can have players who make the balls 'talk'. Without Higgins, White, O'Sullivan and now Trump there is now game to watch!

    Hendry's recent admission of 'what did White win anyway' is in poor taste and sounds like a resentment against his popularity. It obviously irks Hendry that he has not earned the mass admiration despite all his great 'numbers' and records.

    Greatness is more than winning. Sport is a game yes. Its moreover entertainment though. There has to be charisma, grace, personality, courage. If we compare sports, say for example cricket. You have Tendulkar who has 50 Test Hundreds which is an astonishing feat and then say someone like Viv Richards who had 20 odd. You can see the impression Viv Richards has left, due to the way he played the game. Golf same again. Nicklaus or Woods and then Seve Ballesteros or Phil Mickelson. Football: say Pele 3 world cups. Then you have George Best- no world cups but still left an incredible mark in the memory.

    You see, its not the winning always that defines greatness. Final one: Boxing: Mohammed Ali was more than just boxing. Greatness transcends sport and somehow gets burned into our conciousness on an almost spiritual level.

    I'm sorry but Stephen Hendry just does not fill that description. Also, I never said Hendry doesn't love the game. I meant he loves winning more, values it more highly. What I meant also is that the love of the game is more evident in the play of White, Higgins and Ronnie. Its the way they express themselves on the table. I suppose you could say style.

  • Comment number 87.

    Ben Dirs is too young to remember the greatest snooker player ever, so I suppose that is why he talks only about Hendry etc.
    As someone else mentioned, Joe Davis (1901-1978) was the snooker world champion 1927 to 1940, and again in 1946 when the championship was played next after the war. He compiled 687 century breaks in his career and also won the world billiards title 4 times!!
    His was a household name in Britain and probably in many other countries too!
    (It was his fame which influenced me to get an E.J.Riley snooker table at the age of 10!)
    What a player!!!

  • Comment number 88.

    It's always hard to compare players from different eras but taking into account sheer statistics, the media pressures, the quality of opposition, and the evolution of the game you have to say he was and will remain the best player the sport has ever seen.

    I was fortunate enough to watch Higgins, Reardon, Davis, Hendry, Higgins and O'Sullivan live and on TV and while all were brilliant in different ways, Hendry's all-round game was the best. Tactically and technically we won't see a better player. People can rave about White and O'Sullivan's natural ability but they didn't have the killer instinct. Davis and Higgins both had vulnerabilities.

    Sure, Hendry lost his edge eventually but who could blame him after all he'd achieved? If you listened to or read what he had to say, there was always more to his life than snooker. I think he was unfairly looked down upon by fans of White and O'Sullivan but he possessed plenty of flair too.

    As I said, it's pointless sometimes trying to place a player from one era alongside on from another. In my opinion though, the sport was lucky to have him.

  • Comment number 89.

    Just because someone has won seven world snooker titles doesnt make them the best player ever, only perhaps the best of their generation. It seems that most of the respondents have forgotten that they are playing for the WBS title which stands for World Billiard and Snooker Association. How many of our modern players have held both tiles in the same year which people like Ray Reardon and John spencer have. One could argue that the greatest player of all time was William Alexander "Bill" Werbeniuk who not only could barely reach over the table but could still do a long pot despite being on his 14th pint of lager in a match now thats greatness

  • Comment number 90.

    Objectively, with seven world titles Hendry is the best.

    The best...

    The greatest in my eyes combines the titles and tournaments with a style that is captivating and effective.

    That for me is Ronnie Osullivan. The most talented, as good with both hands and a character (albeit short tempered). People think Ronnie doesn't train hard, not as hard as davis or hendry did, but he does and has the flair to go with it.

    Most titles= Hendry

    The greatest= Osullivan

  • Comment number 91.

    What did Jimmy ever win? ...erm the hearts of the nation.
    I'm sorry, but as brilliant as a player as Hendry was, he just came across as a dour scot. Thats why the public never took to him, not because he was a winner. Not having a go at Hendry, I like the guy ( his commentary is second to none) and I think his comments regarding Jimmy are slightly out of contexct, at least I hope they are. Good luck for whatever he does in the future.

  • Comment number 92.

    @89, Virtuous Fang: While I agree with the sentiment of your post, please tell me when either Reardon or Spencer won the Worlds Billiards title? (let alone in the same year as the snooker title!) As far as I'm aware only Joe and Fred Davis ever won both (with Eddie Charlton being runner up in both)

  • Comment number 93.

    All the posts above, giving their opinoin on just who was the best through stats and facts and figures are entirely missing the point.

    The game has changed completely in the 30 years I've been watching it, having first been mesmerised by Alex Higgins on his way to the title in 1982. The tables are faster, have less knap, and the balls are lighter to that era. As a result any stats quoted are completely redundent. Add to that the increased number of ranking events in the modern era, and those stats mean even less, if that's at all possible.

    Hendry was most certainly the greatest player of his generation, and that certainly means he has a place in the conversation as to who is the goat, a conversation that would simply go round and round in circles.

    Joe Davis was the 'father' of modern snooker, and revolutionised the game with new break-building techniques never seen before, and still in use even today. Would love to have seen what he was capable of on a modern table, I would like to think a number of people out there would be surprised by just how could be.

    Even Steve Davis was, at his peak, plying his trade on tables appreciably slower than the tournament tables in use today. The game was slower then, but that was dictated by the equipment. How would a young Steve Davis have fared on modern tables? We'll never know, but we do know that he was capable of killing off frames in a single visit at a time when a single sashay into the pack was rarely enough to free up enough reds to win the frame.

    Both the Davis' and Hendry the greatest of their era, and yo could arguably add O'Sullivan to that list for his exploits since the turn of the century. Each has his strengths and weaknesses, and are very difficult to compare. For my money it's Steve Davis, but that's an entirely objective opinion, and I wouldn't damn anyone who thought differently.

    On a side not I was rather saddened to see those comments attributed to Hendry in Mr Dirs' main article. As he says himself, he's alway s played to win, not to simpy play the game. There's a lack of love for the game there, and the only surprising thing to me is that he still, after all these years, doesn't understand that that's the reason many fans never showed him any love back.

    Steve Davis certainly displayed the same persona in his peak, but then softened as a personality as he matured, something that Hendry has sadly missed out on. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players ever to play the game,%2

  • Comment number 94.

    @34: "Forgive me for being a snooker cynic but why aren't these players still battling for trophies each year at the age of 40 or 50? It's not like they have to be at the peak of physical condition to play the game!"

    True of course, but other things than physical fitness deteriorate at 40+. Primarily eyesight: snooker requires a great deal of refocussing between cueball & object ball - 40-year old eyes not good at that. Concentration: it's primarily a mental game and the ability to concentrate for extended periods also declines with advancing years...

  • Comment number 95.

    @86 "You see, its not the winning always that defines greatness."

    Then what is it? Have you not heard the expression "Jimmy White is the greatest snooker player never to have won the world title?" It's not "Jimmy White is the greatest snooker player but never won a world title". Snooker is about scoring more points than your opponent, not about doing it in style. If that was the case then trick shots and doubles would make you the greatest. Have another debate on who has the most personality or natural talent. If you want to argue that there are multiple factors (not just stats) that make you the greatest then you will, I'm afraid, need to include the will to win and arrogance.

    "There has to be charisma, grace, personality, courage"

    Personality doesn't pot ball, neither does charisma and neither does grace. Courage yes, you need courage. I think Hendry could have had as much of that as anyone. What you want is a hugely successful showman, which is what Ali was to boxing. I could argue that Chris Eubank had as much personality as anyone to ever walk into a boxing ring and the courage and arrogance he displayed in East Germany against a vile crowd was the bravest sporting performance I think I have ever seen. I wouldn't call him the greatest boxer ever though, not even close.

    I'll repeat myself, sportsmen are ultimately doing a job. The aim of their job is to win. Would you pick a lawyer to represent you based on his personality? He could be the dourest, nastiest, meanie faced Scotsman but if he was the best around and got the job done I wouldn't care.

    Favourites will be determined by charisma, personality, grace and courage. Success doesn't breed favourites. Success breeds greatness.

  • Comment number 96.

    By results Hendry is of course the best ever.

    JD held the title for many years consecutively, but the WC rules in those days made the title far, far easier to defend than it was to win. I don't think it's a fair comparison.

    By the effect they had on the game, I vote Steve Davis: he ushered in a completely new era of uber-professionalism that Hendry just took a level higher.

    For the effect they had on increasing snooker audiences worldwide, maybe Alex Higgins.

    For pure natural ability and being as astonishing to watch play the game as Federer at his best, Ronnie O'Sullivan: pure poetry.

  • Comment number 97.

    Davis to me is the greatest. People forget how good he was and he is also a class player at 54 years old whilst Hendry has admitted defeat at 43. Two years ago Davis at 52 knocked out the defending champion in the WC. Hendry did the same but at a decade younger.

    It's not just about titles although even if it was pretty silly to say Hendry us better because he won seven bearing in mind Davis was only a black ball away from the same.

    Davis is the greatest then Hendry and anyone with intelligence will agree.

  • Comment number 98.

    @97 Decent post up til the last sentence.
    Disagreeing with you is not mutually exclusive to intelligence i'm afraid.

  • Comment number 99.

    Can't believe people can say Ronnie "every time I loose a match I'm retiring" O'Sullivan is a better player than Stephen Hendry. Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis are rightly considered the two best players of all time. Ronnie whilst the most natural player comes behind Ray Reardon and John Higgins as the 5th best player.

  • Comment number 100.

    People forget that to be the greatest in a sport/game it usually requires a combination of talent, hard work, and mental capacity. Davis and Hendry had all three to varying degrees. Higgins and O'Sullivan lack the third completely and a bit of the second. Greatest ever is between Davis and Hendry...Davis hasn't won anything for a while but he has had some great results in that period including beating RoS in the Masters final, Higgins in the WCs just a couple years a go and reaching the final of the UK in 05 beating the defending champ Maguire and Hendry en route. Hendry has the most Championships on his side. However, I believe the fact that Davis was ranked in the top 16 as recently as 4 years a go and at the age of 50 meant he could still compete with today's era. This for me makes Davis the greatest ever followed very closely by Hendry (BTW, Davis has won the most professional titles still and the most UK Champs (2nd most prestigious)). RoS, White and Higgins are great to watch but you would never place a bet on them winning. RoS loses/lost consistently to people including Hendry as did White and Higgins to Davis.

    BTW, I also agree that you can't really compare other stats like century breaks from era to era due to equipment but you can compare styles and victories. Davis and Hendry have shown that they can compete across eras...Higgins didn't, White did a bit I guess and RoS is similar to White at mo. If RoS continues on for another 10 years and actually wins some more of the major titles then he has a chance to be considered.

 

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