STEPHEN HENDRY admits that his snooker records many thought would stand forever are now under serious threat from a rejuvenated Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The Rocket topped a brilliant week at the BetVictor Welsh Open with a 12th maximum break to beat world No2 Ding Junhui 9-3.
That edged the reigning and five-time world champion one ahead of the now-retired Scot in the all-time list of 147s, as he also took a ranking-title haul to 26.
And O’Sullivan, 38, is the red-hot favourite to win a sixth Crucible crown next month that would equal Steve Davis’s tally - and leave him one adrift of Hendry’s seven.
Hendry knows O’Sullivan, a man reborn in the past two years, could easily top that and his mark of 775 career centuries, standing on 733 after his 147 - with even the milestone of 36 ranking titles an outside possibility.
After shrugging aside the challenge of Ding, who had lifted four ranking-event trophies this season, O’Sullivan said: “This is how I was playing when I was 14, 15 and 16.
“All the moaning I have done over the years, people didn’t see how I really played when I was young or how good I was. I used to do this every day, and I am playing somewhere close.
“I am playing how I know I can play. I only won tournaments because I was a winner. It was never easy.
“However the last couple of years I have won tournaments easily. The Masters in January, and at the Welsh Open, it is supposed to be hard.
“But I have hardly dropped any frames, no one has got near me even the two recent world titles.
“For years I struggled against opponents I knew I should be putting away, and it is nice to be doing that, I have found some good form.
“But I am being very professional and treating opponents with respect to do that. The minute I don’t, they will pounce on me and beat me.”
And Hendry, 45, said: “It was only a matter of time until Ronnie got ahead of me on the 147s – and a lot of my other records are clearly at risk.
“The one I treasure most is the seven world titles, but if Ronnie keeps this attitude he could play until he is 50, and is likely to equal or beat it.
“He is the only one that could do it, records are there to be broken and it would be no disgrace to lose it to Ronnie, or share it with him.
“The century record of 775 he won’t do this season as he is about 50 behind, but in a year or two I expect that to go.
“And even the 36 ranking titles is a possibility though he needs 10 more and maybe that is the safest. It depends how much he plays.
“I watched Ronnie’s maximum, and he is just a league above everyone else. If he keeps that level up you might as well give him the world title now.
“I think he is about 7-4 odds to win at the Crucible, and I don’t think I was ever as short as that even when I was dominating.
“Making a maximum to win a match in a final is special, ironically I did it against Ronnie once. But when you are full of confidence and feel you can do no wrong, these things happen.
“The last red that Ronnie got, left-handed into the green pocket and screwing back almost the length of the table to be perfect on the black, is the best shot I have ever seen.
“Ding came into this final as the man of the season, and trying to equal my record of five ranking titles in a season. I still fancy him to do that, as Ronnie is missing two Chinese events.
“But he was wiped out in Wales, and might have to wait until Ronnie has stopped playing to win the one he really wants, the world title.”