Davis off to snooker's World Championship - and former champ Murphy lies in wait
Mark Davis produced what he considered the best comeback of his 30-year professional career to qualify for snooker's Betfred World Championship.
The St Leonards potter recovered from 7-2 down to pull off a stunning 10-8 victory over Jamie Clarke in the final round of qualifying for the sport's flagship event on Tuesday.
Davis has been drawn against seventh seed and 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy, with the match due to get under way next Wednesday.
Davis told the World Snooker Tour website: “I can’t remember coming back from that deficit in my career, especially against such a good player. I have been playing well lately, but I wasn’t with it in the first session today. I still had hope tonight because I know my game is there.
"I don’t know how the last few balls went in. It’s crazy how you have to deal with things, mentally."
Davis has come through the qualifiers more times than any other player. This was his 11th successful trip - and it came a remarkable 27 years after his first. It will be his 12th appearance in total at the Crucible in Sheffield, having qualified automatically as one of the seeded players in 2014.
The 48-year-old progressed to round two in 1995, 2010 and 2013, beating four-time champion John Higgins in the latter year.
“If someone had said back in 1994 that I would still be playing 27 years later, I wouldn’t have believed it," Davis added. "My problem sometimes is that I don’t enjoy snooker enough, matches can be like a pint of blood. You never know when your last trip to the Crucible will be, I’ll go there and enjoy it. It’s a special place.”
Davis looked to have a mountain to climb after losing seven of the first nine frames against Welsh cueman Clarke, who reached the last 16 last year. But the world number 45 began the second session by reeling off seven frames in a row, with top breaks of 54, 60, 68, 70, 76 and 68.
Clarke, ranked 86th, pulled one back to trail 9-8 only for Davis to come out on top in a scrappy 18th frame and complete an astonishing turnaround. What's more, Davis fashioned the highest break of the qualifiers so far during his 6-4 victory over Stuart Carrington in the previous round.
The 2012 and 2013 six-reds world champion, and 2016 world seniors champion, put together a magnificent run of 143 in frame two against 52nd-ranked Carrington. Davis also had breaks of 67, 63 and 53 in a good victory over an opponent who made one century and three fifty-plus breaks of his own. He now goes into the draw for the final stages, which will take place on Thursday at 11am.
The main event, featuring stars such as world number one Judd Trump and defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, starts on Saturday.
Bexhill-based Jimmy Robertson, meanwhile, suffered an agonising final-frame defeat in the penultimate round of the qualifiers. The world number 61 was edged out 6-5 by 36th-ranked Chinese player Lu Ning, having valiantly fought back from 5-1 down to force a decider, helped by breaks of 62 and 60.
Robertson - a former European Masters champion - had previously beaten another Chinese potter, Zhao Jianbo, by the same score.