World Championship 2021 – Jimmy White: 'Winning world title could have put me in early grave'
Jimmy White infamously lost six World Championship finals between 1984 and 1994, but has revealed his failure to lift snooker's biggest trophy might have been a blessing in disguise. At the age of 58, White faces his old nemesis Stephen Hendry in the first round of qualifying for this year's event. He said he lost four world finals to Hendry while battling cocaine and alcohol addiction.
Jimmy White of England (seated) and Stephen Hendry of Scotland (playing) during the World Snooker Championship Final at the Crucible in Sheffield on 2nd May 1994. Hendry defeated White 18-17.
Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White has revealed a serious drug and drink addiction could have put him in an early grave if he had won the world title at the peak of his potting powers in the 1980s and 1990s.
White lost four of his six world finals to seven-times champion Stephen Hendry in 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1994, the Scotsman who he again faces this year in the first round of qualifying with both players back on the main World Snooker Tour courtesy of invitational wild cards for services to the sport.
He came closest to defeating Hendry in his last fateful appearance in the final in 1994. With the scores locked at 17-17, White was among the balls in the final frame at the Crucible, but infamously missed a black off its spot as his nemesis returned to mop up and deny the Londoner his final crack at the sport's biggest prize.
White turned 32 on the same day he lost to Hendry 27 years ago, but admits he had bigger problems off the table as he revealed "I was giving him a head start of about 10 grams of cocaine and four bottles of Jack Daniels".
White watched his close friend and former world champion Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins tragically die at the age of 61 in 2010 after a long battle with alcoholism and admits he could have followed a similar path a long time sooner.
I lost the four finals to him..but in those days I was giving him a head start of about 10 grams of cocaine and four bottles of Jack Daniels.
“I came very close in winning two of the finals against him. In 1992 I was 14-8 up and getting my winning speech ready, but lost the next 10 frames.
"And then in 1994 I twitched a black in the decider at 17-17. But it is what it is, and I might not have been here if I had won the World Championship the way I was."
The Eurosport pundit lost two other world finals to Steve Davis (1984) and John Parrott (1991) respectively, but knew Hendry would be a force when he practised with the then 13-year-old 'Wonder Bairn'.
Some 40 years on, they will meet for the first time on the main tour since Hendry completed a 9-8 win in the last 32 of the 2010 UK Championship.
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“I knew he was something special straight away and he became one of the greatest players the game has seen,” said White. “I played the majority of my best years against legends, two of the best ever in Steve Davis and Stephen. Steve was a bit more conservative at the table.
And then there was this fantastic potter Stephen that came along and I had to compete against both. We have had so many battles not only at the World Championship but throughout our careers. And to draw each other at this stage of our careers is very bizarre.
White defeated Hendry 4-2 in the last four of the World Seniors Championship last August before winning five straight frames in a 5-4 win over 1997 world champion Ken Doherty in the final.
Hendry took enough encouragement from that outing to return to the main circuit aged 52, nine years after retiring at the 2012 World Championship, while White has not qualified for the World Championship since 2006, but remains optimistic he can still produce under pressure.
White faces Hendry on Tuesday 6 April at 7pm (LIVE on Eurosport) with the opening day of the 45th World Championship in Sheffield on Saturday 17 April.
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"It's well-documented that my best preparation wasn't that great in the 1980s and 1990s, but I have always enjoyed practising. And if you enjoy practising you can keep going as long as your eyesight is good," he told the BBC.
My game's in good shape. If I can beat Stephen in the first match I have three other tough matches and then I get to the Crucible then hopefully I can win another five matches and become world champion.