Stephen Hendry says he will not prolong his comeback to the World Snooker Tour indefinitely if he can't bring his "natural game" to competitive matches next season.
The seven-times world champion suffered a 6-1 drubbing by China's world number 82 Xu Si in the second round of Crucible qualifying on Wednesday following his 6-3 victory over old rival Jimmy White in the first round on Monday night.
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Hendry managed to scramble over the line to eke out the opening frame at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, but the 52-year-old Scottish icon could not benefit from several chances in the second frame as Xu, 29 years younger than the former world number one, pinched it on the black to restore parity at 1-1.
It went badly wrong from that point onwards as Xu dominated with breaks of 75, 79, 51, 66 and 72 to secure a match with Zhou Yuelong in the third round of qualifying to boost his own prospects of retaining his tour card.
'One from the archives' - Hendry makes fantastic brown to win frame
For Hendry, it proved a chastening experience in how far his game needs to improve to become competitive again at the highest level.
“I had two or three chances to go 2-0 up and from then on I didn’t really offer much or any resistance to my opponent. He capitalised on all of my mistakes," he said.
"I made 49 (in the second frame) and then played a terrible positional shot. In the old days, that would have been 2-0. I was in. I missed the final red, he's made a good clearance and from then on it was downhill.
"It doesn’t matter how low a player is ranked, if you make it easy for them, they will still pot balls and win the frames.
“Hopefully, with a few more competitive matches under my belt, before we come to this point next year, I’ll be able to have a bit more composure out there.
Every shot seemed like a test. I was wondering if I was going to pot certain shots, that isn’t the way to think out there. You have to get on with it.
Hendry – who has been working in practice with the celebrated SightRight coach Stephen Feeney – returned to the sport on a two-year invitational wild card last month. The Scotsman lost 4-1 to Matthew Selt in the first round of the Gibraltar Open despite making his 776th career century with a knock of 107.
He again showed brief glimpses of his class in his two outings at the world qualifiers, but admits next season will be make or break for his own aspirations of reaching 800 centuries and improving his form ahead of the Crucible qualifiers, a decade after he retired from the sport.
I’ll certainly play in more events next year. If I am still not able to bring my cue action into a match situation then there is no point.
"The whole point is to see if I can play my natural game out there. We will give it a go next year and see what happens.”
'That is the Hendry we remember well!' - Stunning clearance after big White miss
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