30 not out for Davis?

At the time of writing, six-time world champion Steve Davis leads Adrian Gunnell 4-1 as he bids to qualify for the Crucible for an incredible 30th time. Before his match he told the Independent that although his interest for some of the smaller tournaments has diminished, he hopes that he won’t be going anywhere just yet, though with his form fading, how much longer can Steve really play on for?

To view the article in full please visit the Independent website here.

Steve on practice:

“I empathise with a lot of what John said last week about the practice being difficult, it’s difficult to reinvent your motivation. You want to be professional, but you find it harder. Also, crucially, you get less reward for that practice. For me, at the moment I feel they’ll have to take me away kicking and screaming. It’s easier to get up for the World Championship, but for the smaller events the drive you once had has evaporated.

“I have cut my practice right down, it’s basically a hobby for me now. But if you’re dabbling like we are, you need a couple of results here and there. If you’re not getting those, you may as well pack up. At the moment, I am.”

Steve on the qualifiers:

“First and foremost, you can’t afford to go in there with the attitude, ‘What am I doing here?’ All of these players can play, if you’re attitude is wrong you will lose.

“Usually great performances come at the end of a tournament when a player gets into stroke. You go along for one qualifying match at a venue, you’re not thinking about playing brilliantly, you’re thinking about getting through and not making mistakes. A lot of snooker at the qualifiers isn’t pretty for that reason, and just because you are higher ranked and have a big reputation, it counts for nothing.”

Steve on 1985:

“It would be very special to go back as a player on the 25th anniversary of that final, though to be honest, every time I get back there now is special. I’ll always remember that one against Dennis, more than my wins there, and evidently so do a lot of others. The one they can recall is the big one I lost. It’s understandable, and to be honest it has to go down as my greatest moment in the game. It wasn’t a win, or a trophy, but it was a great moment. It had a huge effect on me. If I hadn’t ever lifted the trophy again at the Crucible, then who knows, I might have felt differently.

“I probably would have needed lots of psychotherapy about it. As it is, I won it another three times and I can be philosophical, and look back at it fondly and with some pride.”

It goes without saying that to still be competing at his age is a notable achievement but it is also fair to say that Steve has struggled for form during the last 12 months, winning just one match this season and finding himself down in 56th place on the one-year ranking list as a result. Being the World Championship this week though, I would expect Steve to come out on top against Adrian Gunnell today, particularly as I imagine that despite what he has said above, he must have put in a little extra practice in the weeks leading up to the event.

But how much longer can he keep going? Come what may today he should remain inside the top 32 for next season, thanks largely to his quarter-final appearances in the Shanghai Masters and Grand Prix tournaments during the autumn of 2008. To remain in that bracket for the longer term however he is going to have to improve next season and start to record those “couple of results here and there” that he talks about or else he could find himself on the same slippery slope that has just caught out John Parrott.

Like many players, it will be interesting to see how Barry Hearn’s governance of the sport affects Steve’s status as with potentially more tournaments to play, perhaps there is the danger that his lack of practice would be exposed on a more regular basis. The nature of the tour might not be quite as cut-throat and reliant on the World Championship as it is right now and those players performing consistently in the other events might gain an advantage.

On the flip side however, could more regular events might provide the practice that he needs (like the Premier League has in the past), and may even reinvigorate his desire for some of the smaller events?

Whatever happens you can guarantee though that Steve will go down fighting and as he has just demonstrated by firing in a break of 88 to stretch his lead to 4-1, on his day he can still play produce some top snooker. While I can’t see him being around quite as long as his namesake Fred Davis therefore, I expect to see him on the tour for a couple of more seasons yet…