Steve Davis has been one of the brightest stars in the snooker firmament for as long as many of us have been watching, but last year he announced an end to his 38-year professional career.
Learning to Play
Steve Davis grew up in Plumstead, South London, and started playing in a local social club. Back then, it was difficult to find coaching or even opponents, so his father introduced Steve to Joe Davis’s excellent manual.
The manual paid off. When Steve found his way to a club in Romford owned by Barry Hearn, now chairman of World Snooker, the quality of his playing caught Hearn’s eye. Recalling the experience, Hearn comments that “without saying I saw the greatest player to hold a cue, I did see someone who was totally committed, had great concentration and a passion for the game.”
The Golden Age
Under Hearn’s guidance, Steve Davis turned professional in 1978. Two years later he announced his arrival with a 16-6 destruction of Alex Higgins to win the UK Championship. In 1981, he went on to defeat Doug Mountjoy in a historic match, taking the world title for the first of six times. Despite the quality of his opponent, the newcomer won the first six frames and finished 18-12. True to his stoic image, his celebration was to turn his face upwards and exhale.
In the 1980s, snooker achieved a popularity to rival that of football, and Davis was its undoubted star, in spite of a reputation as “boring”. He played up to the image in the media, but it didn’t stop him being popular enough to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1988.
Davis won both the World and UK championships six times and was the first player to achieve the Triple Crown. His last world title came in 1987, defeating Jimmy White in the final, but after that he encountered the new rising star, Stephen Hendry. Hendry dominated the 1990s, much as Davis had the 80s.
Steve Davis never recovered his earlier status, though he eventually defeated Hendry in 2005. He continued playing on the professional circuit, though, and at the same time developed parallel career as snooker pundit on TV and a DJ, as well as appearing on I’m a Celebrity… Get me Out of Here.
Last year, after failing to qualify for the World Championship and the death of his father, he took the decision to retire. “With snooker my hobby turned into my profession,” he says. “How lucky are you to be able to do that?”