Hendry hints at retirement after coming through first-round thriller

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The Independent Online

Stephen Hendry, the seven-times world champion, clung on for dear life to maintain his interest in this year's World Championship here in Sheffield. But despite his battling 10-9 first-round victory over Joe Perry, the 42-year-old dropped the biggest hint yet that he could retire this summer after a record 26th appearance at snooker's biggest tournament.



Hendry, the world No 12, held a healthy 6-3 overnight lead against Perry after the opening session of their best-of-19 frame clash.

Perry bravely fought back to force a nailbiting decider which Hendry eventually pinched on the final brown ball. "If I win this thing I might still contemplate retiring," confessed Hendry. "I've got a big decision to make at the end of this season.

"I've got out of jail, there's not about that. I still love it out there. But it's going to be tough for me in the future because I'm not going to play in the PTC [Players Tour Championship] events next season, so I'm always going to get punished in the rankings."

Hendry's last major ranking tournament win was the 2005 Malta Cup, but the Scot has kept his elite top-16 status over the last six years. However, despite his victory in South Yorkshire, Hendry could still slip out of the top 16 for the first time since 1988.

Ronnie O'Sullivan might have threatened to withdraw from this year's 17-day green baize marathon before a ball had even been potted, but his decision to compete nearly resulted in a wonderful maximum 147 total clearance.

Ahead 4-2 against opponent Dominic Dale, and with the balls perfectly spread, O'Sullivan was a big favourite to clear the table by potting all 15 reds, 15 blacks and the colours.

However he surprisingly fluffed his lines. He ran out of position on the third to last red, missed an easy pot down a side cushion and broke down on a break of 96.

It would have been O'Sullivan's fourth Crucible maximum and the 11th of his career, a break which would have seen him leapfrog Hendry in the all-time list of 147 clearances. The only solace for snooker's top draw was that he finished with a commanding 7-2 leads over Dale after the first session of their best-of-19 frame first round match.

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