To mark the 20th anniversary, we’re looking back at Ken Doherty’s magical run at the 1997 World Championship in a four-part series with the Darlin’ of Dublin. In part two, we reflect on his fortunes over the first two rounds.
Feeling under pressure with his place in the top 16 on the line, Doherty faced a potential banana skin against qualifier Mark Davis in the opening round.
Despite racing into an early 3-0 lead, the Irishman was pegged back to 3-3 and the match was neck-and-neck from there to remain finely poised at 7-7.
However, Doherty’s experience eventually prevailed as he scraped through a narrow 10-8 winner.
“It was a springboard for me because it released the shackles and a bit of pressure came off me,” he remembers.
Next up was a showdown with six-time champion Steve Davis in what would be their third meeting of the calendar year.
Davis had inflicted heavy 6-1 losses on Doherty in their Masters semi-final, as well as in the opening round of the Irish Masters.
“They were two embarrassing and tough defeats to take, especially the one on my home patch at the Irish Masters,” he said.
“So I was very determined from the start and relishing the chance of playing a great in the place that used to be his back yard.”
Doherty in action (Photo by Alex Livesey/Allsport)
The world number seven was clearly inspired as he knocked in two centuries on the way to a 5-0 lead, before wrapping up the match with a session to spare by completing a comprehensive 13-3 rout of the Nugget.
“I got off to a good start to go 5-0 up. He won the next two frames and gave it a fist pump, which gave me a gee up and he only won one more after that," he admitted.
“Beating Steve with a session to spare was a big deal because nobody had ever done that to him at the Crucible.
“It was a real feather in my cap and put a big spring in my step to continue in the same vein of form.”
Rising Scottish star John Higgins awaited Doherty in the quarter-finals, with a first appearance in the Last Four at the Crucible on offer to both.
But who would march into uncharted territory and who would have to wait a year for another opportunity?