02/05/2012 11:05 | By Jamie Frier, contributor, MSN Sport

Stephen Hendry: the best ever, no doubt



Stephen Hendry (© PA)

Within seconds of the announcement that Stephen Hendry was to retire from snooker, the Twittersphere was ablaze with people cueing (get it?) up to praise the Scot as the greatest snooker player ever. But is this the case? MSN Sport examines the evidence.

Potting

One of the most important facets of the game, if you can't pot, you can't win snooker matches. Luckily, Hendry could and Hendry did. Alex Higgins may have been one of the first to take an 'if you see it, go for it' mentality to a game previously steeped in caution, but Hendry took it to the next level.

But it was often said that his main strength was also his main weakness. The mentality to go for his shots lost him many frames, but it won him an awful lot more. There have been more natural long potters over the years, most notably Mark Williams, Stephen Lee, Ronnie O'Sullivan and now Judd Trump. However, as one of the first to take the game to where it is today, Hendry can certainly be classed as one of the best potters of all time.

Verdict: Not the best, but right up there

Safety

Pretty much the name of the game. Safety play is vital. Get a good white and your opponent is in all sorts of trouble. With a steady cue action and a steely determination, Hendry could battle anyone in a safety battle, although often it seemed like he would rather not.

It nearly goes without saying that the best exponent of the safety game in the Crucible era was Steve Davis who could calmly roll the cue ball behind the baulk line till Judgement Day, but the likes of Peter Ebdon and John Higgins certainly run him close in terms of sheer bloody-mindedness on the green baize. Safety play for Hendry was like mental arithmetic for most people. He could do it, he just didn't like it much.

Verdict: Not the strongest part of his game, but you don't win seven world titles if you can't play safe

Matchplay

Hendry is as steely a Scot as you are likely to meet. His dedication to snooker over the past 27 years is phenomenal and there are few better competitors in the history of the game. Even if he was not playing well, you knew you were still in for a tough game.

Legendary competitors such as John Higgins and Steve Davis got steamrollered on occasion, but a right royal thrashing was pretty rare for Hendry (barring, sadly, his final match of course). As Judd Trump has shown, you can pot balls all day long from anywhere, but if you haven't got the highest level of matchplay you are not going win seven world titles.

Verdict: Alongside Davis and Higgins as the best matchplayer ever

Stephen Hendry wins first World Championship (© PA)

Natural ability

In the mind, yes, in the cue, slightly less so. Stephen Hendry has a perfect mentality for modern snooker, namely an iron will to win, partnering a ruthlessness with eye for a pot. However, if you're talking about sheer ability with a cue in hand, there is only one man that can possibly be talked about. The one and only Mark King. No, I jest.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is almost invariably suffixed with 'the most naturally gifted player ever to hold a cue' and it is tough to disagree. Right hand, left hand, short pots, long pots, safety (occasionally), Ronnie can do it all seemingly effortlessly. If he had the mind of a Steve Davis or a Ray Reardon, Ronnie would have been unstoppable.

Judd Trump is one who also looks like taking over that mantle, but the Bristolian does have a way to go. Looking further back in time, Alex Higgins showed that raw desire to get down onto the baize and play, so when you consider these three, it's tough to rank Hendry in the same category

Verdict: In the mind, one of the very best but others ahead with cue in hand

Trophies

Yep, this fella has one or two. Actually, it's more like 36, and that is just the ranking titles. Hendy's won more world titles than anybody else in the Crucible era, including five in a row, reached a further 21 finals and has earned more money than anyone else in the game.

In terms of rankings tournaments, he is six ahead of Steve Davis in second place. Honourable mentions also go to Ray Reardon for his six world titles, Ronnie O'Sullivan who should have won more than his three world championships and 23 ranking titles, and Joe Davis who won the world title an astonishing 15 consecutive times in the 20s, 30s and 40s. But in the modern era, you can't touch Hendry.

Verdict: The most successful modern player bar absolutely none

Overall

Near enough untouchable. He is strong in every important aspect of the game which makes up a good snooker player. True, Davis might have a better defence, Trump might be a better potter, O'Sullivan may be more naturally talented, but if you are looking for an all-round player, one who can knock in the centuries (he has more century breaks than anyone else and shares the 147 record with Ronnie), can hit the baulk cushion, can come back from 9-5 down in a best-of-19, can win title after title after title, then Stephen Hendry is your man. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best snooker player of all time.

71Comments
02/05/2012 18:26
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Saying Hendry was better than Davis purely based on trophies is rather misleading. When Davis was at his peak there were only 6 or 7 ranking titles per season, as Hendry became the number one this number increased , table specifications also altered so that pockets became larger, making centuries and maximums more likely - not an apples to apples comparison. At his peak Davis was total and utter domination, merciless and the height of consistency.
If you you look at total titles/finals Davis is superior - it is just that less of the tournaments were classed as 'ranking' titles at the time (75 singles titles in total v 68 to Hendry). I'm not qualified to comment on Joe or Fred Davies, or Ray Reardon, as thankfully not old enough! fair to say all great players in their own generation, and nigh on impossible for anyone to clearly label the best.

02/05/2012 21:48
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Steve Davies, the best ever.  My Grandfather watched all the greats, Joe Davies was still his number one. His positioning of the cue ball, was better bar none. He rated, Joe, then Ray reardon, John Spencer and of late, Steve Davies. Steve played the game of old, but with accuracy of millimetres. Always found the bulk cush and had the best safety play. He always said, Stephen Hendry nicked to many frames and never dominated, mainly against Steve Davies. 
02/05/2012 15:41
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I'd prefer to watch Ronnie play. But the facts are that Hendry has won more **** than any other player. Simply the best.
02/05/2012 19:06
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STEVE DAVIS IS BY FAR THE BEST SNOOKER PLAYER EVER AND A WONDERFUL AMBASSADOR FOR THE SPORT

02/05/2012 13:42
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Retire - how old is he?

how I wish I could retire so young.

 

(Best wishes to him)

02/05/2012 16:24
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Jeff ,  Have you,   never competed in sport at any level.?   In any sport there is only one place to finish and thats in first place.

With  my humble experience,  to achieve and maintain the  performance  level recorded by Stephen Hendry is highly commendable.  The  considerable effort, even to those with a natural  talent, consider the dedication to years of practice and training. .

Although for me his dour facial expressions and cold demeaner has lacked a certain charisma.  But my God he could play snooker!! There is doubt l if his record will ever be beaten, although Hendry will most certainly be  rermmberred .

 Good luck!  Stephen in your new venture!  because although you have retired from the World Stage, I am sure that Mr. Hendry has  soething else in mind. 

  

02/05/2012 14:36
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Definitly the very best I thought he was great I loved to watch him play he was so dedicated
it seemed as though he could not miss a shot. The very best in his retirement it is what
he deserves. No sour grapes from anyone. CHEERS Stephen.

02/05/2012 14:10
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Totally agree with everything said above.  Stephen Hendry is without a shadow of a doubt the best player ever to pick up a Snooker cue.  No one individual will ever win as many titles as he did.  He never threatened to quit snooker if he was beaten unlike the so called "naturally talented" Ronnie O'Sullivan.  Even John Higgins will never be as good as Stephen Hendry.
02/05/2012 13:46
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Definately the best snooker player ever inthe modern game.

Also a wonderful ambassodor for sport.

A Scot to be proud of.Smile

02/05/2012 14:17
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Steve Davis was probably the best, most clinical player of all time; not always entertaining to watch though. Hendry was the most successful and more entertaining.
02/05/2012 14:34
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I actually met Steven once, and although he always looked miserable he was a really top bloke to speak to. A true legend of the game and will be missed.  Looking at the talent there now is in snooker, I dont think we will have such dominance as shown by Mr Hendry over the years.
02/05/2012 14:22
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The statistics don't lie, he was a phenomanal player. Considering he hasn't been bothering his backside over the past couple of years and still managed a 147 and a quarter final spot is scary. Could you imagine what he may have achieved had he knuckled down again? He deserves the title best ever.

02/05/2012 15:00
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he took the game to another level his long potting in his prime was second to none he redefined the way the game was played attack attack before him frames use too be won  with average breaks of 50,60,75 hendry upped  that to 90s and 100 plus breaks consistently his record of big breaks proves that the game today is the game hendry evolved in his early career and it is a better game for that most definitely the greatest player ever no doubt ,all the best to him in his retirement
02/05/2012 14:30
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Someone. So why has O`Sullivan never reached the heady heights like Hendry.?
 Jeff. If you had real point to make then you'd get a response!
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Without doubt.... On top of that,He has always been A Gentleman & perfect Ambassador for the sport of Snooker...  Never reviled anyone, even when being reviled, He proved himself on the baze time & time again. He never lost his cool.... A far more suppireor sportsman & Snooker player  than the so called golden boy of the moment RO who's just an arrogant p**ck.....
02/05/2012 16:02
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People are getting confused here. Who you like personaly is not what is being asked . The big question is who was the best . Simple answer from the story above
02/05/2012 15:35
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I accept some of the comments made, but I personally feel that Stephen Hendry & Steve Davis will be the best CONSISTENT players of my lifetime. Having said that, I think players such as Rocket Ronnie, Hurricane White & Miserable Higgins were/are awesome in patches and therefore not as great as the two Steves, although I get a real buzz watching Ronnie play.
02/05/2012 22:57
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HOPE YOU HAVE A GOOD LIFE WITH YOUR FAMILY,GOOD LUCKSmile
02/05/2012 13:35
02/05/2012 15:55
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I totally agree that Hendry is the best player of all time. Trophies to prove it, records galore and to score the maximum on your retirement speaks volumes...............Enjoy your retirement and play more golf Stephen.............Smile
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