When the 1980s began, Steve Davis and Jimmy White were young men with the world at their feet.

At the start of the 1990s, they were top players and leading title contenders.

As the 2000s dawned, both Davis and White were staring decline in the face but, like the great champions they are, enjoyed memorable resurgences during the decade.

Davis dropped out of the elite top 16 in 2000 after 20 years as part of the elite group. People told him he should retire but his love for the game is such that that was never a possibility.

Instead, he rolled up his sleeves and headed for the qualifiers with mixed results.

Davis, by now part of the BBC television presentation team, missed out on the Crucible in 2001 and 2002 and must have wondered if he would ever return but he did so in 2003 and also earned promotion back to the top 16.

In 2004, he led Ronnie O’Sullivan 8-5 in the Welsh Open final but was edged out 9-8.

The following year he enjoyed an emotional run to the final of the UK Championship, which had been the first title he won as a professional some 25 years earlier.

This was Davis as good as he had ever been. He beat Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire – helped by a 145 total clearance, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry to reach his 100th career final.

There, he played the 18 year-old Ding Junhui, 30 years his junior.

There was to be no fairytale ending. Ding won 10-6 but Davis nevertheless authored one of the decade’s most heart warming stories.

White had done similar the previous year when he won his tenth career ranking title and his first in 12 years.

He beat Paul Hunter 9-7 in the Players Championship final in Glasgow and was joined in the arena by his most loyal supporter, his octogenarian father, Tommy, whose good humour and cheerfulness throughout all the setbacks he had endured watching his son had endeared him to everyone in the game.

White had already figured in two other finals, the 2000 British Open and 2004 European Open. His form came and went and his ranking yo-yoed.

In 2006, he was the world no.8 but a disastrous set of results cost him his top 32 place and he ends the decade in danger of dropping off the circuit.

They remain distinctly different characters. Earlier this month Davis played an exhibition at Buckingham Palace; White is currently undergoing hardship in the name of entertainment in the jungle on ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.’

These two legendary players have gone from young pretenders to the game’s elder statesmen.

Davis is now 52, White 47. Neither has anything left to prove but each loves snooker and will stick around for as long as is humanly possible.

Let’s hope it’s a while longer yet.


Anonymous said...

While I like Steve Davis' attitude and opinions and admire his achievements enormously, his play, even when he is winning, has become painful to watch and doesn't do anything for the game's attempt to create a more exciting image. He should retire.

jamie brannon said...

I think Davis has done incredibly well to be where he is, but Im not sure Jimmy is going so strong. I think he may retire if he drops off the tour.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear Dave
I don’t think Steve Davis should retire or even consider slowing down. Remember you are a long time dead and for many of us “Not thinking Snooker” is like being dead or like having a bad injury to the arm or shoulder.

Steve has done many wonderful things in snooker but above all he has been a kind of barometer to the game progress or to be truthful, the games slow progress of change.
Steve was seldom pushed by ex-champs like Taylor or Griffiths; but when he makes a mistake now he is always punished by these young bucks.

Many will disagree but Steve’s best snooker has been played after his six world champion wins. Coming back from the dead to beat Ronnie was only one.

Steve got such a great reputation as a “Safety Player” that he forgot that playing a great safety is equally as difficult as performing an advance “Pot and Position”. Mr hey you

shaun said...

i grew up watching these two and what great role models they have been for the game and i for one hope they are around for a while yet.The concentration and eyesight may not be the same but they would never be beaten on heart alone all the luck in the world gents

mathsisfun said...

Great article Dave! Brings back fond memories, and indeed, lets hope they stay around for a while longer. I'm sure they've still got a few big wins in them.

Anonymous said...

Davis should retire ? I thought he was in the provisional top 16 at the start of the season !

Anonymous said...

Do we think that mr hey you writes his musings from a padded cell?

Anonymous said...

You're right Anonymous (1.49 pm) - Davis did play much of his best snooker after he won his last world title. It was a tremendous achievement to remain at no 2 in the world to Hendry for four years in the 90s at a time when so many new players were challenging them both (Doherty, O'Sullivan, Ebdon, and Higgins all entered the top 16 in these years).

Anonymous said...

Dave, with reference to Davis's run to the UK final I can't believe you actually penned this:

"This was Davis as good as he had ever been. He beat Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire – helped by a 145 total clearance, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry to reach his 100th career final."

When Davis was at his best he regularly beat players of the calibre you mention in every tournament (Hendry apart).
People believe that the standard today is so far above previous decades - it isn't. Take O'sullivan and Higgins out, and the next group of Murphy, Selby, Maguire, Carter, Day, Robertson and Ding etc are all good but not exceptional. For example, would S.Maguire have been world number 2 for any 2 consecutive years in the 80's or 90's as he has been for the past 2 seasons?

I think not.

Colin M said...

Davis' run to the UK final was phenomenal - and provided a brief glimpse for 'younger viewers' into the form he regularly produced and exceeded in his hey day. The 145 clearance against Maguire was sublime and almost brought a tear to my eye. In the old days, Davis' consistency would not have dropped as it did against Ding in the final. All in all it was a fantastic achievement. It was a shame that O'Sullivan pipped him in the Welsh ...so for Davis in the 2000's it was a case of (bloody) close, no cigar!