If Mark Davis could win next week’s English Open in Crawley it would fulfil his biggest ambition after 27 years on the World Snooker Tour.
An impressive career has seen Davis, age 46, win several non-ranking tournaments and climb as high as 12th in the world. But he admits he won’t retire happy unless he wins a ranking title. And the perfect place to achieve that would be K2 Crawley, venue for the first ever major snooker event staged in his home county of Sussex.
“It’s disappointing that I have been a pro since 1991 and played in over 100 ranking events but never managed to win one,” said the Hastings-based cueman. “I’ve got no one to blame for that but myself. I have been all around the world and seen some incredible places through the snooker tour and really enjoyed that side of it. But to lift a big trophy would make my career all the more special.”
At the English Open, running from October 15-21, he’ll take his place in the starting line-up alongside 127 other players, including stellar names like defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, World Champion Mark Williams, world number one Mark Selby, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Jimmy White. Davis’s first hope is that his opening match is scheduled for an evening session, which would allow another ambition to be ticked off.
Mark with wife Claire
“My 11-year-old daughter Millie has never seen me play live in a tournament,” he explains. “Most of the events are either overseas or a long way from Sussex, so she’s never had the chance. My son Jack, who is 15, saw me play in the Masters in London a few years ago. They always support me and when I’m in China we’ll talk on the phone after my matches. But it would make a big difference if they could come to watch me in Crawley. If I’m playing during the day time they will be at school. So hopefully I will be drawn to play one evening, or make it through to the semi-finals at the weekend.
“It’s fantastic to have a tournament in Crawley, it makes a big difference to me only having to travel 50 miles or so. I’ll get some support from friends and it would be great to see a successful tournament as I hope it will stay the same venue for years to come.”
Turning pro the year before John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan – and at a time when Stephen Hendry dominated – Davis has played through the most competitive era snooker has ever known. So he is proud of his achievements on the baize, although he has only lived up to his potential over the past decade, having spent many years inhabiting the lower rungs of the world rankings.
Beating Neil Robertson in the Six Red world final in 2013
He has won the Six Red World Championship – a tournament which uses six reds rather than the traditional 15 – no fewer than three times; in 2009, 2012 and 2013. And in those finals he beat three of the world’s best: Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson. Davis also won the World Seniors title in 2016, and the B&H Championship in 2002.
He names his best accomplishment as gaining a place among the world’s top 16 for the first time in 2013 at the age of 40. “I’m not sure that will ever be done again, for someone to do that for the first time after their 40th birthday,” he said. Last year, at the age of 44, he became the oldest player to make an official 147 maximum break.
And he has proved that he can beat the very best. Davis has been a bogey player for John Higgins over the years, winning six of their last seven matches, including victories at the UK Championship and the World Championship.
“Get back in my pocket John!”
“He’s in my pocket,” jokes Davis when it is suggested to him that he has ‘owned’ Higgins in recent times. “No one rates John more highly than me, as far as I’m concerned it’s a toss up between him and Ronnie O’Sullivan as the greatest player ever. But for some reason I have always enjoyed playing him and always felt very calm and focused. My biggest problem over the years has been my mentality – when my head is not right I get too negative. If I always felt as positive as I do against John, I would have had a lot more success.”
Currently ranked 45th in the world, Davis has had a strong start to the current season, reaching the last 16 of both the Riga Masters and Paul Hunter Classic, and the last 32 of the European Masters. He believes he could still have years of success in the sport he loves.
“My results have been good recently although I haven’t been happy with my performances over the last two years,” he said. “I’m a working with a new coach, Chris Henry, this season because I felt I needed a fresh perspective. I feel as if I still have a lot of good form in me, but I have developed a tendency to miss easy balls and I need to cut that out. In terms of how long I can keep playing, I just take it one season at a time and see where it takes me.”
The financial rewards available on the snooker tour have increased dramatically in recent years, with total prize money growing from £3.5 million to £14 million since Barry Hearn took over the sport in 2010. Davis has earned £126,700 from ranking events over the last two years despite a relatively modest set of results.
“All of the players owe Barry a hell of a lot,” said Davis. “I often remind them what it was like before he took over and how bad it could have been now. Snooker has put me and my family in a comfortable position and I’m very grateful for that. It’s another motivating factor for me to keep going as long as I’m on the tour.”
Tickets for the English Open in Crawley are still available and start at just £10 – for ticket details click here