7.4.08

MEET THE MISSES

We can all think of great shots we’ve seen down the years but it’s often those spectacular misses that have turned frames, matches and even whole tournaments that live long in the memory.

In all sport, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is fascinating to observe, even if it’s crippling to endure for the person screwing up in front of millions.

Here, then, are my five biggest misses in snooker history.

Please feel free to agree or disagree with any of the choices.

5) WILLIE THORNE’S BLUE, 1985 UK CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Thorne was leading Steve Davis 13-8 in this best of 31 frame final and looked certain to extend his advantage to six frames when clearing up in the 22nd.

However, he missed a straightforward blue he would pot 99 times out of a 100 and went on to lose 16-14 as Davis sensed blood, regrouped and ruthlessly punished him.

Willie never got over this and his career of underachievement – considering his great talent – came to be defined by it.


4) JIMMY WHITE’S BLACK, 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
This was White’s sixth world final and at last, at long last, it appeared as if it would provide him with his first world title.

Up 37-24 with the balls well set in the decider, he snatched on a routine black. It was only pressure that caused him to miss it; pressure built up by the weight of expectation after so many failures at the Crucible’s final hurdle and the knowledge that so many millions were willing him on.

Hendry, as he always did in those days, cleared up from the miss and White never again featured in a world final.


3) REX WILLIAMS’S BLUE, 1972 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALS
This was, without overstatement, one of the most significant shots in snooker history. Williams was well placed to win the deciding frame of his semi-final with Alex Higgins when he missed a relatively easy blue.

Higgins won the decider and went on to claim the title. His flamboyant, controversial, mercurial style lit the blue touch paper for snooker and undoubtedly accelerated the game’s march to the top of the TV ratings charts in the 1980s.

This would in all likelihood still have happened but, had Williams potted that blue, probably not anywhere near as quickly.


2) KEN DOHERTY’S BLACK, 2000 MASTERS FINAL
Doherty’s temperament has never been in doubt but it was surely only nerves that caused him to miss the black on 140 in the 2000 Masters final at Wembley. Had it gone in, he would have emulated Kirk Stevens’s maximum feat in 1984. To date, only Ding Junhui (2007) has added to the Masters 147 list.

The nerves were understandable. The Wembley Conference Centre was the game’s biggest venue, there were millions watching on TV and there was an £80,000 sportscar on offer for a max. The next day, a national newspaper took Doherty to a local snooker club and he successfully potted the black from the same position he had missed it ten times in a row.

But by then it was, of course, far too late.


1) STEVE DAVIS’S BLACK, 1985 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
It wasn’t dead simple but it was a ball the all-conquering Davis would have potted at any other time in any other frame.

As it was, at 17-17 and down to the last ball of his Crucible final with Dennis Taylor, he felt the pressure. He knew as he missed it - a little cut-back into a blind pocket - that he’d left it for Taylor. Watching it back, you can almost see all life drain from his features as he trudges back to his seat.

This uncharacteristic slip up proved that even the authentic greats are human and was further proof that, in snooker, it’s every bit as exciting when they miss and when the great pots are flying in.

2 comments:

o.taylor said...

Although perhaps not as significant as any of your five, Dave, I've always remembered Stephen Hendry missing the respotted black to a middle pocket in the unbelievable climax to the 1998 Masters final against Mark Williams. It wasn't quite as easy as it looked but surely a 9 out of 10 shot for Hendry normally. As it was he caught the jaw and stuck it up for Williams to a baulk pocket for the title.

Dave H said...

Good choice. I only left it out because it didn't seem to be a defining point in Hendry's career.