Stephen Hendry sees a lot of himself in Neil Robertson and believes the century record-breaker is capable of challenging Ronnie O’Sullivan’s dominance of the sport.
Seven-time world champion Hendry was a spectator as Robertson became the first player to register 100 centuries in one season during his quarter-final victory over Judd Trump at the World Championship here in Sheffield.
Trump himself had set a record of 61 centuries last season, a figure easily surpassed by the Australian, and, as Robertson’s quest to win the title comes closer to fruition, Hendry believes the world No 1 will take some stopping if he continues to play the same brand of attacking snooker.
“Clearly, he has smashed the old record out of sight,” said Hendry. “There are players out there who want to dominate and keep their opponent sitting down.
“They want to make centuries and win frames at a single visit and I like to see that. I love Neil’s attitude that every time he gets on a break he wants to clear the table. It’s a great attribute to have and it’s what I wanted to do.
“So many players win the frame and then relax on 70 or 80 and play a careless shot, but with Neil you can see if he misses a century he is angry, and I was like that. It is one element that contributes towards him being world No 1.”
Robertson came back from 6-2 and 9-6 down to beat Trump in a courageous display, winning 13-11 late on Wednesday night.
Hendry is convinced that Robertson, with more century breaks this season than many leading players managed during their careers, is the biggest threat to the reigning champion O’Sullivan winning a sixth Crucible crown.
To put Robertson’s remarkable achievements into context, the two-time champion Alex Higgins managed only 46 centuries in a 26-year professional career, while Willie Thorne mustered just 126 in a career spanning 27 years.
Only 52 players have made 100 career centuries, though since the establishment of the Players Tour Championship in 2010-11 there are far more competitive matches and the record has fallen three times in the last four seasons.
However, Robertson has taken the pursuit to a new level and, having amassed 358 so far, the 32-year-old can overhaul Hendry’s record of 775 career centuries.
“If you take Ronnie O’Sullivan out of the equation Neil is the best player in the world,” said Hendry. “And it emphasises what a good player he has become, because he has worked at getting that good.”
In yesterday’s play O’Sullivan established a 6-2 lead in his semi-final with Barry Hawkins, initially trailing 2-1 but then reeling off five frames in the first session of their match.
Hawkins compiled breaks of 96 and 76 to force the pace early on, but O’Sullivan responded with breaks of 63, 80 and 108. The pair resume this morning in a match scheduled to conclude tomorrow afternoon.