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Ssb - uk championship stories part 2: Steve davis

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  • Ssb - uk championship stories part 2: Steve davis

    It was the UK Championship which provided Steve Davis with his first professional trophy, which launched him as a bona fide champion and first brought him to widespread attention.

    It is the UK Championship where he still leads the way with six titles to Stephen Hendry’s five.


    Davis won every UK title from 1980 to 1987 bar two. Terry Griffiths beat him in the 1982 quarter-finals and Alex Higgins recovered from 7-0 down to edge him 16-15 in the 1983 final.

    This period encompassed an era of dominance so complete that it was hard to see how it could ever end.



    It was often said that Davis spent more time on television in the 1980s than any other sportsperson and more even than the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

    It was the money-making decade and Davis made plenty, but through it all the allure was always snooker: a challenge to be tackled, a problem to be solved.

    Davis was a shy, awkward teenager who found an outlet in snooker. Fascinated by the game and coached by his father, Bill, his talent and potential became apparent to Barry Hearn, who ran a chain of snooker clubs and would manage him through a golden decade, indeed who still manages him to this day.

    Griffiths opened the door for the new breed by winning the world title at his first attempt in 1979 and Davis was part of the mob of young players who dived through it in his wake.



    They were glory years for snooker and for the man known as the Nugget.


    It’s been written many times, by myself and others, that every sport needs an Alex Higgins or Ronnie O’Sullivan. Similarly, every sport needs a Steve Davis.


    Every sport needs someone who plays it by the book, who is dedicated and professional, who represents the sport well, who is an ambassador and who sets new standards. Someone to look up to.


    All players looked up to Davis and even today’s younger brigade, who don’t remember his era of domination, have nothing but respect for the now 55 year-old.


    His first UK title came by way of a heavy 16-6 defeat of Higgins in 1980, his second through an even bigger demolition of Griffiths, 16-3. In 1984, he beat Higgins 16-8 and in 1986 was victorious 16-7 over Neal Foulds.


    The first of the two close UK finals he won is remembered for one shot, a missed blue by Willie Thorne when leading 13-7. Davis won that frame and the match 16-14, the same score by which he defeated Jimmy White in the 1987 final. Six titles and seven finals in eight years.


    The Davis years would have to end some time but he admits that he found it hard to accept that Stephen Hendry was even better.

    The 1990 UK Championship saw them go toe-to-toe in the final for a second successive year. They were introduced into the Preston Guild Hall to Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, an apposite choice for these formidable champions. It was a great match which Hendry eventually won 16-15 and marked the moment the crown was passed.

    Davis soldiered on but his ranking position slipped and, with it, so did his aura. He lost his top 16 place and impertinent journalists, myself included, would start to ask him if he had any plans to retire.



    He didn’t. Why should he? Why should anyone but him make that decision?


    His argument at the time was that if the world no.23 retired it wouldn’t say much for the players ranked below him. In any case, he returned to the top 16 and then, in 2005, quite unexpectedly reached a tenth UK Championship final.


    Look at who he beat to get there: Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry.


    Against Maguire he made a break of 145. Afterwards the Scot came into the press room and said, “even God couldn’t have played that well.” The aura was back.


    Davis had by now settled into a routine. His days were spent if not playing or working for the BBC then sat quietly in the press room playing online poker, his new obsession.


    In the evenings he would visit the same York Indian restaurant and order the same meal. After years of relative obscurity he was back in the big time and loving every minute.


    He lost the final, his 100th, 10-6 to Ding Junhui, no disgrace at all. Davis remains something of an enigma. The man beneath the legend is difficult to untangle but I hope he knows how much satisfaction that run in 2005 gave long time followers of snooker.


    Because Davis has been a constant, a bridge between several eras. He turned pro just as snooker was becoming a big time television attraction and has held on during the rows and retirements, the controversies, the missteps, peaks and declines. He held on long enough to see his best friend take the reins of the game.


    And the story isn’t over yet. Last week, Davis qualified for another UK Championship.


    In his first match he was 4-0 down to Pankaj Advani but won 6-5. In the following round he finished off his 6-2 defeat of Jamie Burnett with a 141 total clearance.


    That match came on the day Larry Hagman, another icon of the 1980s as Dallas's JR Ewing, died. Davis, though, just keeps going.


    What is his secret? It is simple. Away from the everyday noise of the professional circuit - the moans and groans, the constant chatter - and away from the financial rewards, the trinkets, the honours, the recognition, Steve Davis just loves playing snooker. It fascinates him as much now as it did when he was a callow youth first introduced to Hearn.


    It’s in his blood. It's in his heart and soul. It always will be and long may he continue.



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  • #2
    Good Article, I hope his form continues for years to come. Its a tough field of very hungry players. Quality play by a Great Embassador to the game.
    I try hard, play hard and dont always succeed, at first.!!!!

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