A bitterly disappointed Steve Davis is doing his best to look on the bright side after narrowly failing to land his first ranking title for nine years in Cardiff last night.
The 46-year-old snooker legend led Ronnie O’Sullivan 8-5 in the Welsh Open final but was beaten 9-8 as the ‘Rocket’ roared back to deny him the £52,000 (€75,400) top prize.
Davis was last in a ranking event final at the International Open in February 1995, having won the Welsh Open a month earlier.
In the intervening nine years, he won the 1997 Masters – an invitation event - coming from 8-4 down to beat O’Sullivan 10-8, before entering a decline that caused him to drop out of the elite top 16.
Last season, though, Davis reached the LG Cup semi-finals and his consistent campaign enabled him to climb from 25th to 11th in the world rankings.
In Cardiff, he beat Mark King, John Higgins, Robert Milkins and Marco Fu to reach the 99th final of his 26-year career.
And Davis was able to take some positives despite failing to nail O’Sullivan.
“I was proud of myself when I reached the final but it would have been nice to win another match,” Davis said.
“I suppose I’ve done myself a few favours in the great scheme of things. It helps your confidence to have a lot of matches under your belt, knowing that you’re potting the vast majority of the balls.
“Also, to feel the heat is something you need to do regularly. It makes it something you’re more used to next time round.
“It’s just a case of what could have been – it’s one that got away.
“I let him off the hook at 8-5 and he came back well. I feel like an angler who had a big one there for the taking but failed to land it.”
Davis, who pocketed £26,000 (€37,700) as runner-up, has just eight days to get over the disappointment of losing before he faces Ken Doherty in the first round of the Masters, which gets underway on Sunday.
O’Sullivan may need that time for the shock of winning to sink in following his stirring comeback.
Trailing 7-5, the 28-year-old world number three was so frustrated at missing a blue in the 13th frame that he petulantly conceded even though he was only five points behind with the colours left.
“I was so frustrated,” O’Sullivan admitted. “I just wanted to win one close frame – it would have meant more to me than any other frame because I would have convinced myself that I could do it.
“I’d made three centuries but lost six frames which went to the colours. When I missed the blue I was just angry. I decided to give him that one and then come back and attack.”
O’Sullivan, who lost only five frames en route to the final, had not won a title since triumphing at the Irish Masters last March.
He was runner-up in last November’s British Open and reached the semi-finals of the Travis Perkins UK Championship a few weeks later.
O’Sullivan has now won 14 world ranking titles, only one fewer than Mark Williams and John Higgins who have 15 apiece and are joint third on the all-time list behind Davis on 28 and Stephen Hendry on 35.
The 2001 world champion faces Scotland’s Alan McManus in the first round at the Masters.