“I’m like a firework that’s petering out” was the typically self-deprecating way Steve Davis chose to sum up the current state of his career after losing 6-2 to Ricky Walden in the Coral UK Championship in York on Wednesday night.

Davis is no longer a professional but gets invites based on a top-up system for the game’s multi-champions. However, the player Walden described as “the greatest ever” is losing his enthusiasm – not for snooker but competing.

Inevitably, then, questions of retirement came thick and fast at his press conference. “Mentally I’ve already retired but my body is still turning up at events,” he said.

“Even if you’re not enjoying it as much as you used to, I would never ever come out and say I don’t enjoy the game because it's such a great game. I don’t enjoy losing but I still think there’s the masochist in me to still turn up every now and again and play a game and see what happens.

“Mentally I don’t think I’m thinking like a snooker player because I haven’t been entering any of the European Tour events. I might try and muster up a bit of enthusiasm for the World Championship.”

Davis explained that when the forms came to enter the UK Championship it was like a reflex action, comparing himself to one of Peter Sellers’ characters in Dr. Strangelove, whose arm had a life of its own.

The 57 year-old won the first of his record six UK titles in 1980. He was in the final again in 2005. A large crowd at the Barbican Centre were certainly pleased to see him and he did well to recover from 2-0 down to 2-2 with Walden.

But then the reigning International champion upped his game, making breaks of 100 and 98. He eventually cleared with 53 to win the clinching frame and snuff out the Davis dream for another year.

Ricky Walden: beat Steve Davis

Ricky Walden: beat Steve Davis

“Steve goes down as the greatest of all time,” Walden said. “He was my favourite player as a kid and he’s still competing today. It’s an incredible achievement and the way he still handles himself out there is testament to him.

“It’s always an occasion to play him. I used to sit with my nan, watching him win his world titles when I was growing up. You can’t have anything but full respect for him.”


Photographs by Monique Limbos.