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UK Championship: Jimmy White rolling back the years

Legendary star Jimmy White rolled back the years on Wednesday as he qualified for the televised stage of the UK Snooker Championship for the first time since 2010.

The Whirlwind came through four qualifying rounds to book his place in the main draw of the tournament which will take place at the York Barbican from this Saturday through until 20th November.

White is a previous UK Championship winner, beating John Parrott 16-9 to lift the trophy in 1992, and his odds of repeating that success 30 years on have been cut from 750/1 to 500/1 following his exploits in qualifying.

Whirlwind qualifying performance

There is no doubt that White is one of the most talented players ever to grace a snooker table, but at the age of 60 it had appeared his time challenging the very best in the sport was behind him.

White was certainly not fancied to come through four rounds of qualifying at Ponds Forge to reach the main draw of the UK Championship, but, after thumping 6-0 wins over Victor Sarkis and Mitchell Mann, the Englishman then stunned six-time ranking event winner Stephen Maguire 6-4.

That set up a final qualifier against another experienced opponent, Welshman Dominic Dale, but if White was feeling any pressure he didn't show it as he breezed through 6-1 to make it through to the last 32.

White has a wealth of experience

In qualifying for the televised stage of the UK Championship, White has become the first player aged 60 or above to reach the last 32 of a ranking event since Eddie Charlton in 1993.

White's qualification also comes some 41 years since he first competed at the UK Championship in 1981, with the Whirlwind having made it to at least the semi-final stage on five previous occasions, most recently when being edged out 9-7 by eventual champion Matthew Stevens at the last-four stage in 2003.

The Londoner has claimed 10 ranking-event titles during his career (only nine players have won more), with the last of those successes coming at the 2004 Players Championship when he overcame Paul Hunter 9-7.

Of course, White has famously never won the World Championship, finishing as runner-up on no fewer than six occasions, with his last appearance in the main draw at the Crucible coming in 2006, although he has become a three-time World Seniors Championship winner since then.

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Can White go all the way in York?

White will not find out his opening opponent for the televised stage of this year's UK Championship until Thursday evening, but he is guaranteed to come up against one of the world's top-16 in the last 32 of the Triple Crown event.

That means White could face a showdown with reigning world champion and the number one in the rankings Ronnie O'Sullivan, who is 9/2 to go on and clinch UK Championship glory for a record-extending eighth time.

O'Sullivan has won the last 11 meetings between the two players, most recently a 4-0 whitewash at the 2021 Welsh Open, with White's last victory over the Rocket coming in Premier League Snooker back in 2005.

Defending champion Zhao Xintong, who is 16/1 to retain his crown, is another potential opponent for White, as is 2020 winner Neil Robertson. The Australian is 9/2 to lift the trophy for a fourth time this year.

Judd Trump is 11/2 to clinch what would only be his second UK Championship crown and the Ace in the Pack is another potential high-profile opponent for White in the last 32.

There have only been five previous meetings between Trump, who was only three years old when White won the UK Championship in 1992 and all those encounters have been won by the current world number three.

No matter who White ends up taking on in the main draw he is going to face a tough battle, but it is magnificent to see the Whirlwind back amongst the sport's very best and, who knows, maybe he can extend his run at the Barbican Centre a little further.

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