Steve Davis has supported calls for Stephen Hendry to be knighted after the seven-time world champion called time on his glittering career.
At the age of 43, Hendry is giving up snooker in favour of a lucrative contract to promote pool in China, reaching the verdict he could not juggle business commitments with a sporting career and a family life.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn admitted the growing number of tournaments on tour had forced Hendry to quit, saying: “In many ways I suppose I've retired Stephen Hendry, which I don't feel proud of. But this sport is much more important than an individual.”
Hearn added: “Steve Davis should have had a knighthood 10 years ago, and I think Stephen Hendry for his contribution to the game is right up there as well.
“In my opinion those two feature far above many previous recipients.”
Davis, a six-time winner of the World Championship in the 1980s, said that Hendry, awarded an MBE in 1994, was worthy of higher recognition.
Davis said: “When you look at how the British product that is snooker has been entertaining millions abroad, let alone this country, you can make an argument for the fact he could be more decorated than he is.
“There's other people in the world of sport who have won less and got more.
“If you were going to judge it on his role as an ambassador and as a winner, he should certainly be up there on a cloud somewhere. Demi-god status.”
Willie Thorne, who in 1986 became the first player to face Hendry at the Crucible and beat the then 17-year-old, was eager to back the Scot to become snooker's first knight.
“Sir Stephen Hendry, that would be nice. I couldn't call him Sir, though,” Thorne said.
Hendry was yesterday feted in the Crucible arena before the afternoon session between Neil Robertson and Ronnie O'Sullivan.
His fellow former world champions Steve Davis, John Parrott, Ken Doherty, Dennis Taylor and Terry Griffiths formed a guard of honour and Hendry received a standing ovation with loud applause as he entered the arena.
The fairways of Gleneagles beckon on a more regular basis for Hendry, and Hearn predicts he will not be the first veteran to quit due to the demands on modern players.
Hearn said: “The world of snooker has changed, it's unrecognisable from two years ago. We set out to do exactly that, and Stephen and some of the other top players will be casualties.
“You don't run a sport for the benefit of any great — and he was the greatest player in the world.
“As a friend of Stephen Hendry's over the last 20 years I'm astonished by the news of his retirement.
“I hope very much that he has really thought this through.”
Hendry had made an inner circle aware of his plans to retire, which he settled on three months ago.
But Davis said: “In a way I feel that it's quite a sad day for me.
“Jimmy White would probably feel that even though he's not at the cutting edge any more, that he's enjoyed the challenge of trying to stay within the game, and I've enjoyed the same challenge, but obviously Stephen didn't.
“You could still have business interests and still play, but he's chosen not to.”
Davis lauded Hendry, who was world number one from 1990 to 1998 but has slipped to 23rd in the rankings, as the ultimate “winning machine”.
“I think he pushed the barriers further when it came to break-building,” said Davis.
“He certainly also changed the game into a much more aggressive and attacking game and was the first player to really prove that that game could work.
“Beforehand it had been considered that you were a bit of a lemming if you played too many attacking shots.
“He was the best winning machine we ever had. He had plenty of guts on the table as well.
“He'll have to sharpen up his pool now.”
Thorne saw the blossoming brilliance of Hendry in the teenage player he edged past 10-8.
Twenty-six years on from that debut appearance, Thorne said: “He's been an absolute legend, undoubtedly the greatest player the world has ever seen.”