Steve Davis announced his retirement from professional snooker last week, bringing to an end his 28 year career. The 58 year old, 6 time World Champion decided to call it a day after failing to qualify for this years World Championships.
Affectionately known as “Interesting” due to his supposedly dull persona, Davis was the first real superstar of snooker and one of the main reasons the game became so popular during the 80’s when he ruled the green baize.
As a kid I was a big Davis fan, I actually enjoyed watching him play as I thought he was a mix of all the other great players of his heyday.
He had the safety play of Thorburn and Griffiths but could also pot balls like Alex Higgins and Jimmy White, maybe not with flair of those two showmen but Davis was a very good long potter. He would grind his opponents down with his tactics of playing a patient game before finishing them off with awesome positioning and great potting. He was the complete player. Higgins and White might have had more natural talent but Davis was the more rounded player and his domination of the 1980’s reflected that.
For all his world titles Davis will probably always be best known for his part in the 1985 world final against Dennis Taylor. Davis led that final 8-0 at one point and surprisingly took his foot off the gas and allowed Taylor back in. At 17-17 the game went into the deciding frame. For a world final to then end on a sudden death black ball was incredible. The match became iconic with 18.5 million people tuning in on TV to see the finale. I for one was shocked to see Davis lose the mental battle with Taylor as we had been so used to seeing him close out games on a regular basis but I guess the pressure of winning a World title affects even the very best.
To get over that devastating loss to Taylor and win 3 more world titles showed how resilient a player Davis was.
Surprisingly “nugget” never reached a world final during the 1990’s. Stephen Hendry came on the scene and it was as if Davis had trouble dealing with the fact that there was a new kid on the block with a similar all round game but who was more attacking. I think all snooker fans wanted Davis to step it up so that we would see a great rivalry emerge but it never happened.
In between playing, Davis became part of the BBC commentary team and this is when the general public became more aware that Steve Davis actually was “interesting”. His quick wit and dry sense of humor made him a popular personality and I for one enjoyed listening to him.
The question will now be asked…..”Who is the best ever? Davis, Hendry or O’sullivan?”
Hendry has the most world crowns and was virtually unbeatable in the 90’s but was the overall competition as strong during the 90’s as it had been in the 80’s when snooker was at it’s peak with regards to popularity?
O’Sullivan is perhaps the most naturally talented player the world has ever seen but has mental flaws that surface from time to time which has probably stopped him already overtaking Hendry’s world title haul. He still has time to win the 3 titles it would take to do that but being on the wrong side of 40 it will get harder every year.
Even though Davis himself admits his lack of “firepower” might give Hendry and O’Sullivan the edge in the debate, I think he might have been too cagey for the other 2 great champions. For all their greatness, Hendry and O’Sullivan did take risks and against a prime Davis I think those risks might have been their undoing. I think Davis’ tactics would’ve driven Ronnie to distraction so I would put Davis at the top of the pile.
Thanks for the memories Steve, you were most certainly “interesting”.