Pink Ball wrote:From 1997 to 2005, Stephen Hendry played in 23 ranking finals. He won 10 of them. Two of his wins were against Graeme Dott, one against Joe Perry, one against Tony Drago and one against Mark King.
Of his 23 ranking finals in that time, he played 14 against the five best players of the late '90s and early '00s: Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Peter Ebdon and Ken Doherty. He won four and lost 10. He lost five of those between 1997 and 1999 alone, winning none. Three of those finals were in 1997.
He played in seven triple-crown finals between 1997 and 2003 (one a year, effectively). He won one of them, in 1999, against Mark Williams. All the finals he lost were against one of the five aforementioned players, with the exception of the 2003 UK final against Matthew Stevens.
Moral of the story: Stephen Hendry was competing hard and competing well. The motivation was clearly still there; he was making finals all the time. But over the longer matches, after he turned 27, he was rarely good enough against the very best.
He also played in one triple-crown final beyond that period, against Peter Ebdon in the 2006 UK Championship, but he lost of course.
Fatally undermines his claim to being the greatest of all time.
After Hendry broke the World Championship record his form fell off of a cliff. Motivation was undoubtedly a big part of this.
The point here is that it doesn't matter how bad Hendry became in his latter years. When he was at his peak he was better than O'Sullivan has ever been. O'Sullivan's longevity has been light years ahead of Hendry's but that isn't the conversation.