Steve Davis admitted it was no hardship to retire from snooker as the six-time world champion brought his career to a fitting close at the Crucible.
Practice had become onerous, results were hard to reconcile with the greatness of Davis in his peak years, and the 58-year-old said picking up his cue once in a while had become “just habit really”.
After 38 years as a professional, 28 ranking titles, three Masters crowns, 355 century breaks, and 31 years on from that black-ball final against Dennis Taylor, the Nugget kicked his habit.
Davis lost his father, Bill, last month.
Bill Davis died at the age of 89, and in an emotional press conference the former king of the Crucible told how he had entered the recent World Championship qualifiers for his father, knowing it was one last bid to earn a place in the televised stages.
CAREER BY NUMBERS
28 – Total number of ranking titles, matched by Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins but only bettered by Stephen Hendry
6 – World Championship titles
147 – Davis made just one maximum break, which was the first in a professional match. It came against John Spencer at the 1982 Lada Classic in Oldham, and he received a Lada car as reward
30 – Davis made a record 30 appearances at the World Championship, last appearing in 2010 when he reached the quarter-finals
7 – value in points of the black ball he missed in the 1985 World Championship final, allowing Dennis Taylor to mop up and claim the title
£866,000 – his Crucible prize-money, amid total career earnings of over £5million
8 – position in the top 40 reached in May 1986 by Snooker Loopy, the Matchroom Mob with Chas & Dave hit single that featured Davis
38 – years as a professional snooker player
40 – years since he first met his manager, Barry Hearn
1 – world ranking from 1983 to 1990
355 – career century breaks
A 10-4 defeat to Fergal O’Brien in the first of three qualifying rounds merely confirmed to Davis it was time to quit.
The thought of retirement cropped up before his father’s death.
Davis said: “It came to my mind that perhaps it was the right time to stop.
“And my father wasn’t very well. So I entered, for him, this year’s World Championship. He was still alive when I entered, then he passed away so I played the match against Fergal. That was the only match I ever played without him.
“The last couple of years have been tough because you don’t get much success and I was definitely doing it for my father then.”
His voice cracked as he fought to get the words out. There were two great relationships Davis enjoyed in snooker: with his father, who in the early 1970s presented him with namesake Joe Davis’ blueprint for the game, How I Play Snooker, and with his manager, Barry Hearn, whom he first met 40 years ago.
With dad Bill and manager Hearn by his side, Davis won world titles in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989.
“Then Stephen Hendry came along and nicked all my sweets,” Davis joked.
As well as the sadness in retiring, and the pain of losing his father, there was no little light in the sign-off from Davis.
Once dubbed ‘Interesting’ by the Spitting Image team, with the perception he was anything but, Davis long ago cast off the austere image he projected at the height of his career.
Funny, candid, approachable and, yes, genuinely interesting now, Davis said: “I don’t want to play any more, it’s too hard.
“There were matches that by the time I’d got in the car I’d already forgotten about them.
“Back in the day you’d have gone home and been furious for two or three days later and you didn’t calm down. I noticed that it didn’t matter as much.”
It had to be in Sheffield that Davis brought his career to an end.
“I’ve had moments at the Crucible where it’s been the most wonderful place and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.
“I’ve also had times in that place where I’ve wanted it to swallow me up, it was the worst place ever and everybody’s said it.”
He rated his last Crucible match victory, in 2010, as his greatest.
“My memory’s not that great so the one five years ago beating John Higgins was the most amazing match I’ve ever played,” Davis said.
There was a rousing reception for Davis on Sunday as he was allowed the arena floor to himself after revealing his retirement plan.
He walked around, holding up the World Championship trophy, and was treated to a standing ovation and the warmth he was not always afforded in his playing days, particularly in the early, most successful years.
Despite many triumphs, Davis has come to terms with the 1985 final against Taylor being a career highlight, no matter how desperate he felt at the time.
He said: “I think the best moment of my career was missing the black against Dennis Taylor.
“At one stage I was the strongest player in the game so I was expected to win, so those moments when everybody is excited are when you don’t.
“With Dennis, that was the best and worst moment of my career because I think it just showed how greatly snooker had been appreciated by the public.”
As his success dwindled, Davis grew in popularity, which gave him mixed emotions.
“Stephen Hendry and myself agree we miss the days when you used to get booed in,” Davis said, “because it just proved how good you must have been if people felt that way inclined.”
Having told Hearn of his decision, Davis said: “I think he realised I should have retired ages ago.
“He realised it was just habit really.
“It’s sad that era has come to an end, but I think only happy things.”
Culled from Evening Standard