Ray Reardon dominated the 1970s, Steve Davis dominated the 1980s, but it was Stephen Hendry who took the accolade for the 1990s and, arguably, trumps the lot. Born in 1969 in Edinburgh and known by a host of (embarrassingly bad) nicknames like the Rolls Royce of Snooker and the Golden Boy, Stephen Hendry has been a feature of the game for well over 20 years now, and has left his mark wherever he’s picked up a cue.
Although not the most vocal or charismatic of individuals on the table, Hendry has nonetheless been unquestionably one of snooker’s most stylish players. His break-building skills are second to none, as reflected in his staggering number of century breaks throughout his career (first on the list by a huge distance) and his eight 147 maximum breaks, including one in the 1995 World Championship. For both his achievements and the manner in which they were gained, Hendry is a living legend in the sport.
A youthful Stephen Hendry began his long relationship with the game of snooker at just 12 years old and consistently set a blistering pace, winning the National U-16 Championship at just 14 years old. The victories mounted up in quick succession, taking the Scottish Amateur Championship in 1984 and being the youngest entrant ever in the World Amateur Championship. It was just a matter of time before he moved up to professional level and, after retaining his Scottish title, he made the jump in 1985.
Unsurprisingly, Hendry’s impact was immediate and dramatic. The youngest Scottish Professional champion in history during his first season, he followed it up the next year with a string of impressive results – most prominently in reaching the quarter-finals of both the World Championship and the Grand Prix (then the Rothmans Grand Prix). Each season saw the young Scot improve and, during 1987/1988, Hendry picked up his first ranking titles with both the British Open and the Rothmans Grand Prix, as well as victory at the Australian Masters and success in the World Doubles Championship.
Ranked number 4 in the world by the end of the campaign, Hendry was no longer the underdog and continued to take titles in the 1988/1989 season, notably the Masters. However, his real era of dominance began quite aptly at the end of the 1980s. By the end of the 1989/1990 season, Hendry was top of the World Rankings after a truly staggering year, victorious in the UK Championship, the Scottish Masters, the Masters, the Asian Open and, best of all, becoming the youngest ever World Champion at just 21 years old! So started Hendry’s era and, with the exception of falling foul to the Embassy curse and failing to retain his title at the first time of asking, the Scotsman really was flying. Hendry took the World Championship in consecutive years between 1992 and 1996 and picked up his most recent title in 1999. As such, he has won the Championship a record seven times. Coupled alongside these victories were consecutive UK Championship titles between 1994 and 1996 and the Masters in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1996. During this period, Hendry spent eight consecutive years at the top of the world rankings.
Since 1999, Hendry’s career has been decidedly less dominant, despite remaining near the top of the world rankings for most of the period and even topping the tree again in 2006. Between the 1999/2000 and 2000/2006 seasons, Hendry picked up just seven major titles, including the British Open in 2003 (which contained his first 147 in a ranking final), the Regal Welsh Open in 2003 and the Malta Cup in 2005. Nevertheless, his overall record of 68 tournament victories ranks second only to Steve Davis with 73, while his total prize money of over £8.25 million remains a record. As a reflection of his standing in the game, in an expert analysis by Luke Williams and Paul Gadsby, Hendry was named the greatest player in the history of the game.
Hendry vs. Jimmy White (World Snooker Championship Final 1994)
Hendry was White’s nemesis throughout the latter’s career, defeating him on countless occasions in the World Championship and no defeat was more dramatic or cruel than this one. The match ebbed and flowed throughout, with phenomenal performances from both players and a deciding 35th frame was required to separate the two. With White well in among the balls and a healthy lead to his name, he missed a regulation black off the spot and let Hendry to the table. In true champion style and under extreme pressure, Hendry duly provided a winning break and took the match and the tournament.
Hendry vs. Ken Doherty (UK Championship Final 1994)
Less tension but certainly no shortage of class, as Hendry put in arguably his finest performance in a final to crush Doherty 10-5. The match was lit up by a veritable purple patch from Hendry, with 5 century breaks in the space of 7 frames. By the conclusion of the match, Hendry had racked up no fewer than 7 centuries in 15 frames.
Hendry vs. Mike Hallett (Masters Final 1991)
In a true test of character, Hendry prevailed over the course of 17 frames. At one point, Hallett was 7-0 up in the match and even had the opportunity to clear the table for the victory with the score at 8-2. However, Hendry recovered after Hallett failed to convert his one chance, and duly responded by taking the next 7 frames, and with that the final.
Hendry currently lives in Auchterarder in Perth and Kinross, with wife Mandy (married since 1995) and two sons, Blaine and Carter. Being an overall sportsman, he also takes a keen interest in golf (hence his proximity to the Gleneagles course) and poker, in which he has entered major tournaments.
In respect of his achievements in the game, Hendry was awarded an MBE by The Queen in 1994. He has also been named BBC Scotland’s Sports Personality of the Year on two occasions, in 1987 and 1996.
- World Snooker Championships – 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999
- UK Championships – 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996
- Masters – 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996
- Grand Prix – 1987, 1990, 1991, 1995
- British Open – 1988, 1991, 1999, 2003
- Regal Welsh Open – 1992, 1997, 2003
- Asian Open – 1989, 1990
- European Open – 1994, 1995, 2001
- Malta Cup – 2005
- Regal Scottish Open – 1999
- Dubai Classic – 1989, 1990, 1993
- Thailand Masters – 1998
- International Open – 1993, 1997
- Premier League – 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2004
- Scottish Masters – 1989, 1990, 1995
- Irish Masters – 1992, 1997, 1999
- Malta Grand Prix – 1998, 2001