Stephen Hendry's comeback 'a mystery' to John Virgo: 'I don't understand it'

Stephen Hendry is into the second season of his return to professional snooker but his friend John Virgo admits he still can’t get his head round it, describing the comeback as a ‘mystery’ to him.

The seven-time world champion accepted a two-year invitational tour card to return to the main tour at the start of last season and has played a handful of events this year.

The 52-year-old initially retired in 2012 after a quarter-final exit from the World Championship, and other than exhibitions and some matches in Seniors events, he was out of competition on the baize until this year.

Hendry has picked up a couple of wins since making his return at last season’s Gibraltar Open, but does not look likely to compete with any of the top players in the game and Virgo admits that he cannot understand the Scot’s motivation.

‘I don’t understand it, it’s a mystery to me, I’ve got to be honest, it’s a mystery,’ Virgo told the Talking Snooker podcast. ‘I do not understand why he’d want to come back.

‘Not that I’ve spoken to Stephen about it, and Stephen’s a good friend of mine, we chat. But he was playing in some of the Seniors events and wasn’t getting the results, so why would he think if he went on the main tour he’d start to get results, I don’t understand it.’

Virgo is happy for Hendry to continue to pursue a career on the table, equating his return Jimmy White still plugging away on the main tour at 59-years-old with little success, but is just not sure what he is getting out of it.

‘Sometimes I think, ” Well why is Jimmy playing?” Ronnie [O’Sullivan] says the same: “Why is Jimmy playing on? Does he not want to be remembered as the great Jimmy White?”

‘But Jimmy says: “Look, I love playing the game and I want to play.” There’s no law against that and maybe that’s the same reason for Stephen, I don’t know.

‘It was a strange decision and I still don’t understand it. I’ve not asked him because it’s none of my business.

‘He’s not doing it for the money because the only way you get money is to win a few matches and that ain’t happening.

‘Everybody has their own life, maybe it gets him out of bed in the morning. When you’ve been doing it your whole life you can get a bit of withdrawal from it.

‘He doesn’t owe the game anything and I don’t think the game owes him anything. Anyway, his decision.’

Speaking about his return a year ago, Hendry explained that he missed the thrill of competing and that he felt more confident to have a crack at the main tour after his work with SightRight’s Steve Feeney.

‘I’m excited to have the opportunity to enter some tournaments over the coming two seasons,’ said the King of the Crucible in September last year.

‘I’ve really enjoyed picking up my cue again recently at the World Seniors and after some SightRight coaching I feel a little more confident in my game.

‘I’ve always missed the buzz of competing and although I have no expectations in terms of performance, this felt like a good time to explore getting back to the table.’

Hendry played at the British Open in August, beating Chris Wakelin in the first round before losing to eventual runner-up Gary Wilson in the last 64.

After beating Wakelin, Hendry confirmed that the aim of his comeback is to play at the Crucible once again, and will look to continue on past this season in order to achieve that if he needs to.

‘That’s the goal [playing at the Crucible], whether it’s this year, next year or the year after, I’m not putting any time limit on it,’ Hendry told Metro.co.uk.

‘If it doesn’t happen this year that’s not the be all and end all, but that’s the end goal. I’ve always said I don’t want that defeat to [Stephen] Maguire [in 2012] to be my last match at the Crucible, but there’s a long way to go to get there.’

‘If my game keeps improving there’s no need to suddenly stop playing again. I’ve not said I’m going to come back, start winning tournaments and be a top player again, I just want to get back to enjoy playing snooker, playing well and see what happens.

‘I would hope I’d get another wildcard. Jimmy keeps getting them, nothing against Jimmy he’s one of my best mates, but I would hope that the fact I’m competing that I would get another one.’

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