Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry between them won the world title 13 times within an 18-year period from 1981 to 1999.

Yet, to the regret of snooker fans and, I suspect, the players themselves, they never met in a Crucible final.

In fact, they met only twice at the venue where they each dominated for a decade. Davis won their 1989 semi-final; Hendry came out on top at the same stage in 1994.

They did play in two UK Championship finals and memorably entered the Preston Guild Hall arena for one of them to the strains of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’.

Davis this year makes his 30th Crucible appearance 31 years after his first.

As Britain gears up the general election it’s worth remembering that when the Nugget first played at Sheffield Jim Callaghan was still prime minister.

Davis’s glory years mirrored those of the game itself in the UK: he was unstoppable, ubiquitous and all conquering.

From his first title triumph in 1981 to the end of the decade there were only three Crucible slip ups.

The first came in 1982 when, as defending champion, he went into the tournament exhausted from a punishing schedule of endorsements and exhibitions under the guiding entrepreneurial hand of his manager, Barry Hearn (what ever happened to him?).

On the afternoon before his first session against Tony Knowles (that year the event began on a Friday night) he was signing copies of his book in Sheffield city centre.

Davis was to be undone 10-1 by Knowles, a result that still resonates high on the Richter scale of all time World Championship shocks.

The 1985 world final was the high watermark of the 1980s boom and ended with Davis missing the black and Dennis Taylor potting it to beat him 18-17.

Taylor, as the underdog, probably had most of the support from the watching millions but, interestingly, both Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins as 9 year-old viewers were cheering on Davis.

Winners relate to winners and it wasn’t long before Davis was winning again, though he had to wait two years to become world champion once more as Joe Johnson, a 150/1 outsider pre-tournament, beat him 18-12 in the 1986 final.

Davis ended the 1980s with three straight world titles, including an 18-3 slaughter of John Parrott, whose miserable weekend was completed by having to then take part in an exhibition with Davis on the final night, the match having finished a session early.

It would take something special to end the Davis reign. It came along in the shape of Hendry.

It’s now 20 years since he became youngest ever world champion and his duels with Jimmy White in the 1990s kept millions engrossed.

Hendry won the title seven times in nine years and came close to an eighth triumph in 2002, losing out 18-17 to Peter Ebdon.

That year he compiled a record 16 centuries. He has made 120 centuries in total at the Crucible, which is just over 10% of all the tons recorded there since 1977.

So to this year...

If Davis beats Mark King in the first round he will become the first 50-something to win a match at the Crucible for 17 years.

It’s not the worst draw he could have got because King does not score as heavily as many of the other top 16 players.

It could develop into a dogfight, although King is tough enough to battle it out in the safety stakes with his former practice partner.

Hendry is making his 25th successive Crucible appearance and faces Zhang Anda, just 18, in the first round.

I’d imagine Hendry would, like most other players, struggle to identify Zhang in a line-up and this makes the match a potential banana skin but the young Chinese is making his debut appearance and the Scot’s experience should pull him through.

Snooker is obsessed with nostalgia and looking to the past rather than the future. Perhaps all sports suffer from this, or perhaps it is merely a symptom of snooker’s sudden and unexpected rise from folk sport to major TV attraction.

But there are certain players who fans can’t help wishing well and many spectators and viewers will hope Davis and Hendry can turn in performances this year worthy of their respective records.

Hendry has played very well at the Crucible for the last two years; Davis produced his best performance of the season to qualify.

Neither has anything to prove but pride of performance remains strong.

More than that, deeply ingrained in their respective psyches is the winning mentality. Defeat still hurts, despite all the success.


kimball said...

Great piece Dave!

Keep it coming.

Sonny said...

A very enjoyable read!

CHRISK5 said...

Davis & Hendry never met in a World Championship Final.

But,in the days,when the UK Final was of near similar prestige - Hendry's wins of 16-12 & 16-15 in the 1989 & 1990 UK Finals over Davis - was confirmation of the
'passing of the torch' so to speak.

It's a testament to their natural ability & desire to still compete that Hendry is still Top 10 material - Davis is set to be in the Top 32 yet again.

Though Hendry is much more inconsistent than in his prime - I still wouldn't write him off making another Semi or Finals appearance at the Crucible.

Anonymous said...

One of the great “what ifs” of snooker history must be: what if Davis had beaten Jimmy White in their 1990 semi-final (which he nearly did) and gone on to play Hendry in the final?

It would certainly have been a match to remember. Davis was perhaps slightly past his absolute best, but not by much. Hendry had perhaps yet to reach his absolute best, but was getting there fast. Davis would have been going for his record-breaking seventh title, Hendry his first.

My impression is also that the personal relationship between them at the time was a lot more hostile than it is now, understandably enough given what was at stake.

Any takers on who would have won?

Dave H said...

Hendry, because he was full of self confidence

Davis admitted even after beating Parrott 18-3 that he felt his game was starting to decline

Surely some sort of computer generated contest like in Rocky 5 could sort this?

CHRISK5 said...

I agree - Hendry would have won by a moderate margin of 18-14 or 18-15 - something like that.

Davis still had his pristeen perfect technique back then - but,mentally - he already knew that his 'superiority complex' - was very much slipping - to the rampant Scot at that point.

It would have been very tight match until the final session & then a Hendry spurt of high pressure big breaks to clinch it.

If they met in the 1990 Worlds Final - It would have been perfect.

But a peak Hendry would still rate slightly ahead of a peak Davis.

Anonymous said...


no need Hendry's peak form would have blits Davis off the table.

Hendry had a game that nullified safeties like nobody ive seen before or since.

Anonymous said...

WTF are you on CHRISK5

"It would have been very tight match until the final session & then a Hendry spurt of high pressure big breaks to clinch it"

It never happened what are you some kind of mystic mug, jeez you spout some waffle..

Ok then if you are this supreme snooker reader please predict what's going to happen at the Crucible this year.

CHRISK5 said...

Anon or Tony B @ 10.47pm - Quite simple mate - I accessed the parallel universe simulator program!

Why should I tell you what I believe will occur at the forthcoming World Championships ?

Just so you can go down the bookies & make a small fortune from my intellect! - I don't think so 'pal'!

Anonymous said...

CHRISK5, You can't tell me what's going to happen because you don't know, admit it fella, your just making yourself look foolish.

CHRISK5 said...

Anon - Your'e being foolish - For thinking I was going to divulge such important info anyhow!

What is certain - Whatever happens - There's always a connected pattern to it.

So,who is YOUR tip for the Worlds Title ?....I forgot - You have to ask someone else !!

Betty Logan said...

There's no way to call it. The stats from their two close UK finals favour Hendry, but Davis might have had the upperhand with it being Hendry's first final. The 1990 UK inparticular could have gone either way, so I suppose the world final could have done also.

Anonymous said...


I'm going for Neil Robertson so come on bring it on, stand up the serial commenter or has your mystic ways deserted you?

You really do live in the land of make believe.

Anonymous said...

hendo all day long
davis was good, but not as good....