Ronnie O’Sullivan has saluted “the Tiger Woods of snooker” as Stephen Hendry prepares to resume his illustrious career at the age of 52.
The seven-time world champion will make his comeback in the Gibraltar Open next week having, in O’Sullivan’s estimation, changed the game during his first stint.
Speaking after demolishing Jack Lisowski 6-1 at the Players Championship in Milton Keynes to reach a record-equalling 82nd ranking event semi-final, a performance which prompted ITV commentator Hendry to describe his cue as a “magic wand”, the reigning world champion said: “Stephen has done magnificent things in the game.
“He was like our Tiger Woods of snooker, if you like, when he came along. He just changed the way snooker was played and everyone was in awe of what he was doing on the table.
“He was our game-changer, in a way, so it’s nice to get a compliment from the great man himself.”
O’Sullivan was in imperious form as he raced into a 5-0 lead over Lisowski, compiling breaks of 124, 93 and 125 along the way, and although his opponent took the sixth frame, the respite proved temporary.
The Rocket said: “I can play like that, so it’s nice to deliver a performance like that. But I can equally play really awful, so I’ll probably be sitting here tomorrow night saying, ‘What’s happened in 24 hours?’.”
The 29-year-old compiled two centuries as he cruised into the semi-finals with a 6-2 win over Neil Robertson.
Wilson, who could conceivably face Hendry in the third round next week, said: “One thousand per cent, when I’m 52 I’ll be on a beach in Portugal, retired and with multiple alcoholic drinks by my side.
“But Stephen obviously has a great presence in the game. I’ve worked with him before and I’ve just tried to pick his brains. I always like to try to learn from these guys.”
Hendry had earlier described Wilson’s performance as one of the best he had seen as the Kettering player eased into a 3-0 lead.
Robertson rallied to 3-2, including a century of his own, but remained distinctly second best and Wilson wrapped up a semi-final place with further breaks of 95, 126 and 80.