Form may be temporary and class permanent, but when the two come together the effect can be devastating. Just ask those who have been left in the wake of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry at the Travis Perkins UK Championship in York this week.
The two players who dominated the game in the 1980s and 1990s rolled back the years again last night to win their quarter-finals. To the joy of the tournament's spectators, sponsors and broadcasters, they will meet in the semi-finals.
After their victories on Tuesday, when Hendry swept aside Mark Williams and Davis played some of the best snooker of his life to beat Stephen Maguire, there was a danger that the quarter-finals would be an anti-climax. Not a bit of it. Although Hendry did not have to be at his best to beat Ali Carter 9-7, Davis won a match of high drama to beat Ken Doherty by the same margin.
Davis raced into a 5-0 lead, but Doherty, one of the game's grittiest competitors, clawed his way back. When Davis let slip leads of 41 and 33 in two successive frames as Doherty brought the score back to 8-7 it seemed as though the Irishman might complete a remarkable recovery. Doherty fought back from 47-0 down to lead again in the next frame, but Davis held his nerve to secure victory with a double on the final black.
Hendry also got off to a flying start and a 4-1 lead. Carter posted centuries in successive frames to reduce the arrears to 4-3, but the world No 19 made too many mistakes as Hendry won a scrappy contest.
The other half of the draw, in which Stuart Bingham meets Joe Perry and Ding Junhui faces Neil Robertson today, will produce an unlikely finalist. The four men have one ranking tournament victory between them and combined career earnings of less than £1m.
Davis and Hendry have won more than £13m in prize-money between them and a remarkable 64 ranking tournaments. Davis won the world championship six times between 1981 and 1989, while Hendry went one better between 1990 and 1999.
At 36 Hendry is young enough to rule the world again and, indeed, has fought his way back to No 2 in the rankings. Davis, however, is 48, and has not won a ranking tournament for 10 years. His masterful control of the cue ball this week has recalled the brilliance of his heyday.
He won five of the last six frames to beat Maguire and compiled a break of 145, his highest for 23 years. Davis said it was one of his best ever performances, while Maguire observed that "you wouldn't expect God to play that well".Reuse content