Steve Davis had a love/hate relationship with the Masters.

As a London boy it was his home tournament but, due to his dominance of the sport and the British public’s peculiar dislike of success, he was rarely given the support he deserved at Wembley.

If he played Alex Higgins there he could be guaranteed to be booed. Davis won the Masters twice in the 1980s – 1982 and 1988 – but did not find the Conference Centre a happy hunting ground otherwise.

By 1997 he was widely perceived to be a spent force. The Stephen Hendry era was in full swing and younger talents such as John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams were emerging as world beaters.

Davis remained in the top 16 but was clearly on the slide. His last victory in a BBC network event had come eight years previously.

Still a proud competitor, Davis himself didn’t expect much from the 1997 Wembley Masters having endured a heavy cold in the run-in to the tournament.

Despite this he battled to two good wins over Alan McManus and Peter Ebdon – both top eight players – and hammered Ken Doherty, a few months before the Irishman would become world champion, 6-1 in the semi-finals.

Even so, he faced O’Sullivan in the final and this surely meant only one thing: defeat.

Ronnie was 21 and had the snooker world at his feet. He’d already won four ranking titles and was the sport’s new superstar.

Early in the final a female streaker provided some hilarity but the naked truth for Davis appeared to be that youth would triumph over experience. Trailing 8-4, his quest for an unlikely third Masters crown looked to be at an end.

Perhaps feeling he had nothing to lose – while O’Sullivan perhaps thought it was already in the bag – Davis relaxed and started going for his shots.

The old maxim that form is temporary but class is permanent seemed to apply as Davis produced an unlikely recovery and, at long last, found the Wembley crowd warming to him.

It had taken him to lose his aura of invincibility before he got them on his side but as he came back, it was clear that many in the audience wanted him to win.

Maybe this got to O’Sullivan. Whatever, Davis won six frames on the bounce to land the title 10-8.

It was his last significant title victory and served to underline his competitive spirit, which has come to the fore in unexpected and popular ways since, though well it ever will again on the big stage remains to be seen.


Matt said...

It was a great comeback from a snooker legend that is Steve Davis from 8-4 down against Ronnie. How many players could have come back from 8-4 down against Ronnie? Higgins, Williams, Hendry possibly was he was dominating the game in the 90s. Looking forward to the start of the Masters hopefully Rob Walker will stay as the MC.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know where I can find footage of Davis winning the match? I've looked everywhere and all I can find are O'Sullivan's winning frames.


Anonymous said...

When it comes to writing fairy tales Steve Davis puts H.C. Andersen to shame. In the classic fairy tales things often comes in threes so we need one more big upset from The Nugget. Watch out WC 2011!

Anonymous said...

Dave, I'd love you to do a piece on Mark King. In theory I can think of several players who are better than him yet the tenacious Mr King seems to be superglued into the top 16. Discuss....

Anonymous said...

Jamie - have you got this one down in your greatest sporting moments? No? I wonder why.
Horribly biased and blinkered.

Colin M said...

Dave, I remember that day well...what a performance from Steve! It's just a shame he couldn't convert the Welsh Open and UK in the 'Noughties'..he got very very close to winning those....

Quite simply, he deserves a knighthood!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:50, what does Jamie Cope has to do with this match and what are you babbling about?

Do you know where this myth "the streaker changed the outcome of the match" comes from? If my memory serves me right, she appeared after, what, 2nd frame? And Ronnie still played well the whole first session and the first half of the second.
It seems to be widely repeated but after watching the whole match I just don't understand why.

Anonymous said...

Great piece Dave Steve Davis is the greatest snooker player the game has ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I have the whole match on dvd its a classic,great to watch back on.