sport

Hendry: Ronnie could defend title

Stephen Hendry is convinced Ronnie O'Sullivan would be a serious Crucible contender if he decides to defend the World Championship title.

O'Sullivan, 37, will make a statement regarding his future in the sport at a press conference in London at midday on Tuesday.

He has played only one low-profile match in competition this season, and announced in November he would be skipping the rest of the campaign for personal reasons.

But there has been speculation almost ever since that O'Sullivan would be unable to resist the temptation to make a bid for a fifth world title.

He has apparently reached a decision, and Hendry expects it to be that O'Sullivan will make a dramatic comeback.

The entry deadline for the World Championship is the end of February, and the scheduling of his press conference for Tuesday - two days before the deadline - has only heightened speculation O'Sullivan will play.

"I would presume that's what it's for but you never know with Ronnie," Hendry told talkSPORT. "When I spoke to him last year, I said, 'All you'll need is three or four weeks of really good practice ... and you'll be well capable of winning it'.

"Maybe play a couple of best-of-19s against some top players and he'll be ready."

Hendry says it would be positive news for snooker if the Chigwell cueman was ready to return.

"Absolutely, especially for the other players because you don't want to win the World Championship with the best player not there," Scotland's seven-time world champion said.

Hendry retired last May, and it remains a possibility that O'Sullivan will say he too is bowing out of snooker on Tuesday.

Jimmy White, who wrote on Twitter on Thursday that he thought O'Sullivan was planning not to play, is now not so sure what to expect.

"Looking at the time frame, probably he will play," White said.

"Who says he hasn't been practising, who knows that?

"He may be saying he's never going to play again, who knows?"

White promised: "If Ronnie does decide to play, I'll go over there and give him some practice games."