Steve Davis at 60: The top five moments in the career of The Nugget
Steve Davis will always be regarded as a true legend of snooker and, to celebrate his 60th birthday, we are looking back at five of the most memorable moments during his wonderful career.
One of the game’s greatest champions and ambassadors, the Nugget turned professional in 1979 and subsequently won six World and UK titles during 38 years on the circuit before announcing his retirement in 2016.
As he hits the big 6-0 on Tuesday, here are his top five moments on the green baize…
UK Championship breakthrough – 1980
The 1980s were dominated by a shy lad who had risen through the club circuit in Romford, where he earned the nickname ‘the Nugget’ by punters for his reliability to produce the goods when they had forked out substantial money on him.
He first showcased his talent during the 1980 World Championship, where he beat defending champion Terry Griffiths before eventually coming up short against Alex Higgins in the quarter-finals. Although, Davis set the record straight when he locked horns with Higgins once again in the final of that year’s UK Championship.
Fresh from an incredible 9-0 whitewash of Griffiths in the semi-finals, the 23-year-old came flying out of the blocks against the Hurricane as he raced into an 8-2 lead and, despite his opponent reducing the deficit to 9-5, the world number 13 won seven of the next eight frames to secure a comfortable 16-6 victory and his first major title.
Davis would go on to win six UK crowns, which remains a record in snooker’s second-most prestigious ranking event.
First World title – 1981
Davis also went on to win six World titles during the decade, but it all started in 1981 when he claimed his first following an 18-12 victory over Welshman Doug Mountjoy.
Upon sinking the winning balls, the 23-year-old was almost bowled over by his ecstatic manager Barry Hearn, who had been with him from day one.
The cameras struggled to get near the new World Champion as Hearn celebrated vigorously in front of millions of viewers, but the watching world saw plenty more of him as the years progressed.
First televised 147 – 1982
Nine months after his fairytale Crucible triumph, Davis continued to make strides in the sport and created history at the 1982 Classic.
In the fifth frame of his first-round match with three-time World champion John Spencer, the Nugget compiled the first-ever televised maximum break at the Civic Hall in Oldham.
Davis pulled out some tremendous pots and positional shots on the way to achieving snooker’s Holy Grail against the man who, ironically, had made the first 147 in tournament play three years earlier, although the television cameras were not rolling at the time, and the milestone earned him a Lada car.
Third Masters title – 1997
The emergence of Stephen Hendry meant the Nugget was forced to settle for more of a supporting role during the 1990s, while the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Ken Doherty and Mark Williams pushed him further down the ranks.
Nevertheless, he would continue to appear on the big stages and reached the final of the 1997 Masters at the Wembley Conference Centre, where he would battle fellow Essex cueist O’Sullivan for a third title.
The Rocket came flying out of the blocks with back-to-back centuries on the way to a 4-2 lead, although Davis responded to level at the interval at 4-4.
O’Sullivan went on another surge in the evening by reeling off four frames in 49 minutes to go 8-4 up and two frames from victory, but the Nugget had clearly not read the script.
Davis stuck in there and rolled back the years with some vintage snooker, as he won each of the next six to claim what would be the final major silverware of his illustrious career.
Last Crucible hurrah – 2010
There was added interest when Davis came through qualifying at the age of 52 to secure his 30th and final appearance at the Crucible in 2010.
After a narrow 10-9 victory over Mark King in round one, the Nugget was pegged back to 11-11 from 6-2 up against reigning champion John Higgins.
Although, the 52-year-old did not roll over as he took the next frame and secured a place in the quarter-finals with a wonderful 33 clearance under the most intense of pressure for what he would later describe as the best achievement of his career.
There was to be no fairy-tale finish for Davis, though, as he was comfortably swept aside 13-5 in by an inspired Neil Robertson, who would go on to lift the trophy that year, but he reminded everyone one final time of his capabilities on the biggest stage of all.