Stephen Lee believes his resurgence has stemmed from the increased number of playing opportunities in the last two years and he again produced a confident display to beat Ding Junhui 4-0 in the final of the second Asian PTC in Yixing, China today.

Lee is 38, the sort of age when players are supposed to decline but this season has already seen a PTC triumph for 41 year-old Rod Lawler and the 37 year-old John Higgins win the Shanghai Masters.

Mark Davis and Marcus Campbell, both 40, have been ranking event semi-finalists already in the campaign.

Snooker is not a physical sport so longevity is possible. Way back when in 1978, Fred Davis reached the World Championship semi-finals at the age of 64. His last Crucible appearance came at 70.

Latterly, Steve Davis has eked out impressive performances in his 50s.

However, as people age things do change, not least eyesight and also the ability to handle pressure. Over time, mental scars can form, usually from all the setbacks that litter even the greatest of careers.

I remember about ten years ago covering the qualifiers in the glamorous locale that is Burton-on-Trent.

Davis (Steve, that is) needed the final black to beat Ian McCulloch 5-4. He was right behind it and, for any professional, is was a simple pot.

But that’s the point: it was so simple that it became, paradoxically, missable because Davis knew that there was no excuse to miss it.

And he did miss it. He came off after McCulloch potted it and admitted: “I was shaking like a leaf.”

Steve Davis shaking like a leaf! Well, it happens to the best of them.

Lee has steadily built up his confidence and the PTCs have been key in this, as was evidenced by the fact he won the grand finals last season.

But if I may make this joke for the third time on this blog, snooker, like the black pudding industry, relies on a constant supply of fresh blood.

The younger players are not coming through at the rate they once did, certainly at the rate Lee and the class of ‘92 did.

Perhaps this will change if major events revert to ‘flat’ draws where everyone comes in at the first round. But the PTCs use this system and they are pretty much always won by an established name.

The qualifying system is labyrinthine and tough to come through but it is supposed to be and, in various formats, always has been difficult.

When Lee turned pro he was one of 600-odd players chancing their arm. Most weren’t close to his standard but there were plenty of older players capable of denying the young guns any momentum.

It seems these days this constituency – the experienced pro – is the dominant force.

The likes of Luca Brecel may of course threaten this stranglehold. Ding Junhui broke through, as did Judd Trump.

But the older guard are still a formidable force to be reckoned with.


Anonymous said...

The pros aged 30 + of twenty years ago were no where near as strong as the current pros aged 30 and over. . IMO a lot of the youngsters today have very little fight in them either .

Anonymous said...

16 years Ago one of those 30+ in fact 49 pushed Mark Williams all the way in the WC first round in which mark won 10-9.

30+ 20 years ago was harder and tougher players to beat than today.

Anonymous said...

The PTC is probably the best thing ever to happen to Stephen Lee, isn't it? Lee is all about the technique, so the conveyor belt format of the PTCs probably act as a lubricant in a well oiled machine.

Anonymous said...

5.57, that same 30+ player you refer to, never beat Hendry once, despite playing him dozens of times. Pushing a rookie pro to 10-9 means nothing. He still lost. O Sullivan and Higgins have played the game to a higher level than anyone before them and probably than anyone ever will. Ok, you can argue that Hendry is the greatest because he won more titles but even he will admit those two have passed him on standard.
Terry Griffiths was a good player, but come on?

Anonymous said...

Mark Williams was a bit more than a rookie player by that stage, he had already won tournaments (in fact he whipped Hendry 9-2 in just the previous event). I think Terry Griffiths was a bit better than the average 50 year old pro though.

The strange thing about snooker though, is that unlike tennis or golf you don't have to play better than the other player, you just just have to play well enough to win: lay a good snooker to force an error from your opponent and score your 70. That's all you need to do regardless of who you play. The requirement for winning hasn't really changed over the last few decades, there are just more players capable of producing it, and a few more players capable of regularly reproducing it. Anyone who plays consistently to that level throughout a match would probably win in any era.

Dave H said...

It should perhaps be pointed out that TG was playing without the usual pressure in 1997. He had retired the year before and come back for one last hurrah.

And I think he was happier losing narrowly to a young Welshman than being hammered again by Hendry.

Roland said...

In fact you can see how the man himself saw that match from the interview I did with him last year: http://www.snookerisland.com/blog/interview-with-terry-griffiths-part-1-of-2/

Anonymous said...

2:25 PM

you are joking i hope John and Ronnie hasn't even got close to Hendry's standard of play.

you live in ignorance it seems.

Anonymous said...


yea when people talk about improved standard they mean there's more players capable it doesn't mean better players.

Anonymous said...

Despite being told repeatedly that today's standard is better than ever, the facts don't really bear this out. How does an increase in the number of century breaks demonsrate this? A break of 75 wins you a frame. Higgins and O'Sullivan are the best two players in the world despite heading towards 40. Williams regained the world number 1 spot a couple of seasons ago despite dropping out of the top 32, and players like Lee and Stevens have found it relatively easy to re-establish themselves as top 16 players. The 'next generation' of Selby, Murphy, Maguire, Carter, and to a lesser degree Ding and Robertson are all good players but you would never take any of them to beat Higgins or O'Sullivan at Sheffield. So many players now are one-dimensional, with no B-game which is why Higgins keeps winning big titles despite never seemingly playing at his best.

Anonymous said...

Davis was the greatest ever, then Hendry overtook him. RoS and JH overtook him but they still havent been overtaken. Hendry fans need to take the blinkers off. Anyone who understands the game knows that todays big 2 are the best.
I think it could be 5 or 10 years before they are overtaken, probably by the Chinese.

Anonymous said...

1242 obviously needing some andrex for his mouth.

Anonymous said...

As I said here before: RoS, Higgins, Robbo and Trump will dominate the world championships at least untill 2020.

The Selbies, Lees, Waldens, Murphies, Binghams, and so on will occasionally win a ranking title, but they will never become part of the category 'great player', to whom people will refer when comparing the new-new breed from 2020 onward.

We will always be comparing to Reardon, Davis, Hendry and the other greats, because set standards. The current best 2 players have already done this, and so will Robbo and Trump.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens to O'Sullivan and Higgins over the next couple of years. Both Davis and Hendry were viable world champions up to their late 30s: Davis probably had a decent chance of winning it in 1994 at the age of 36 if not for the presence of Hendry, and won the Masters at 39; Hendry got back to number 1 at 37 and would have won the WC in 2008 at the age of 39 if not for O'Sullivan. Things really started to go south for them once they hit 40, when they started to struggle to retain their top 16 place. That gives O'Sullivan, Higgins and Williams up to about 2015 and then you're going to probably see a real drop in form, and the next generation is going to have to massively underperform to not take advantage of that.