World Snooker Tour: Stephen Hendry awarded invitational tour card for next two seasons

Stephen Hendry
Stephen Hendry will be first eligible to play on the World Snooker Tour at the European Masters later this month

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry will receive an invitational tour card to play on the World Snooker Tour for the next two seasons.

The 51-year-old Scot, who won 36 ranking titles during his 27-year career, retired from the sport in 2012.

Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and James Wattana have also been awarded invitational tour cards.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to enter some tournaments over the coming two seasons," said Hendry.

"I've always missed the buzz of competing and although I have no expectations in terms of performance, this felt like a good time to explore getting back to the table."

Hendry's total of seven World Championship titles, won between 1990 and 1999, is unmatched in snooker's modern era.

He topped the world rankings every year from 1990 to 1998, and only Ronnie O'Sullivan has won more ranking titles - with the Englishman securing his 37th at the World Championship in August.

Hendry will be first eligible to play on the World Snooker Tour at the European Masters, scheduled for 21-27 September.

"I am thrilled that Stephen has decided to return to the tour," said World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn. "He is a giant of the sport and I know that all eyes will be on him every time he takes to the table in the coming months.

"It's great to know that Stephen's competitive fires are still burning and given his extraordinary achievements, it was a no-brainer to offer him the opportunity to come back."

'It's different playing a match' - analysis

World number 48 Alan McManus on BBC Radio Scotland

I think it's been in his mind for a while. He's obviously found something working with a new coach. That's given him the licence to put his hand up and say: 'I'd like to have a go.'

The test will be playing under match conditions. You can practise all you like but it's different playing a match. It'll take time and standards-wise it will improve with more and more tournaments. I would say: 'Give it a season, see how you feel and if it feels good then crack on.'