Snooker: Stephen Hendry backs himself to shine in 'wild-card' comeback

The seven-time world champion has decided to take advantage of a new system which will let him pick and choose the tournaments he plays in over the next two seasons

Stephen Hendry is poised for a sensational return to snooker next season and believes he could still compete at the top level because he sees the current standard of play in the professional game as poor.

Hendry, the seven-time world champion, retired two seasons ago after an illustrious 27-year career. But the Scot, who has won a record 36 ranking titles, has decided to take advantage of a new wild-card system which will let him pick and choose the tournaments he plays in over the next two seasons.

"Fortunately because of the standard of snooker I'd fancy myself," admitted Hendry. "If I did come back it would be for enjoyment, but I wouldn't enjoy it if I was playing shit.

"I'd need to sort my game out because I wouldn't play just for the sake of playing. I'd have to feel that my game is good enough to get a result. I wouldn't like to turn up at the Crucible and get pumped 10-2 or 10-1, that would not be enjoyable. I'd need to feel that I could at least compete if I came back. I'd still have a competitive side of me that wanted to play well."

Hendry, who has not played a ranking event for two seasons, has hinted that he could be back at the Crucible next April to compete. "The option is there and there's every chance I might fancy playing at the World Championship again," he said. "It would be amazing to play at the Crucible again. It would be a massive buzz for me.

Hendry's last Crucible match was in 2012 when he lost 13-2 to Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals. At the same tournament he famously pocketed a maximum 147 break and knocked out four-time world champion John Higgins with a 13-4 win.

Now Hendry, as well as the six-time world champion Steve Davis – who has also been offered a wild card – could prolong his career. "I'm certainly not going back to playing loads and loads of tournaments," stressed the 45-year-old. "I still don't regret retiring."

On the table here, last year's beaten semi-finalist Judd Trump survived a spirited comeback to beat Tom Ford 10-8 to progress to the last 16.

Barry Hawkins, last year's runner-up, won eight frames in a row from 4-2 down to beat qualifier Dave Gilbert 10-4. Hong Kong's Marco Fu clinched a hard-fought 10-7 victory over another qualifier Martin Gould.