The generation game

• Steve Davis, now 48, but still ranked 15th in the world
• Steve Davis, now 48, but still ranked 15th in the world

THE TRAVIS Perkins UK Championship in York did not at all go the way most experts predicted at the outset. As the top seeds went tumbling out in the early rounds, two men not expected to figure in the final stages did most of the damage.

When snooker’s popularity took a sharp up-turn through extensive television coverage almost 30 years ago, viewers quickly got used to a young kid from Romford claiming title after title, much like the Liverpool football team of the same era. That man, who has unwittingly spawned a thousand imitators, was Steve Davis. Amazingly last weekend saw that very same iconic figure of the past appear in the final shoot-out of the present UK Championship. Now 48, but still ranked 15th in the world, Davis rolled back the years to dispose of the likes of Ken Doherty, defending champion Stephen Maguire and ultimately the player who succeeded him at the top of the game, Stephen Hendry, now 36, on his way through the field.

Facing the veteran in York’s Barbican Centre stood a boy, at 18, an incredible 30 years Davis’ junior: China’s Ding Junhui. Hailed as the new snooker sensation two years ago, Ding’s biggest success to date had been a stunning victory in his home China Open in March, in front of a TV audience in excess of 100 million.

Now, the teenager, who seemed to be half asleep most of the time, had arrived to take on the “old master” in the 100th final of his long career. Paul Hunter, Neil Rubertson or Joe Perry to name but three had failed to trouble the prodigy. Davis did take the opening frame but was never to lead again. Having shaken off what appeared to be an attack of nerves, Ding’s potting prowess returned, the young pretender always holding the old stager to take the match 10-6.

Ding looks to dominate the green baize for many years to come. For Davis, it was a golden autumn that may see him emulate his namesake, Fred Davis, who was still in the top 16 at the ripe old age of 64.