Steve Davis arrived at the Crucible this morning on “a sad day” for snooker after seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry announced his retirement.
The 43-year-old Scot confirmed after a 13-2 quarter-final defeat to Stephen Maguire last night that his days as a touring professional are over, and he will take up a lucrative post promoting pool in China.
Davis was among many taken by surprise once Hendry’s decision, which he reached three months ago, was made public.
“In a way I feel that it’s quite a sad day for me,” Davis said.
“Jimmy White would probably feel that even though he’s not at the cutting edge any more, but that he’s enjoyed the challenge of trying to stay within the game, and I’ve enjoyed the same challenge, but obviously Stephen didn’t.
“You could still have business interests and still play, but he’s chosen not to. I wouldn’t say it’s the wrong decision – it’s just down to the individual.”
Davis, who won the World Championship six times, suspects Hendry’s tally of seven will never be beaten.
“That’ll be very hard, I think,” he said.
“John Higgins is on four, and I think it’s very hard to see anyone reaching seven. I can’t really envisage it happening.”
Davis pointed to the strength in depth on the tour, saying: “There’s just going to be more and more players knocking each other out.”
Maguire has little doubt he ended the career of Scotland’s greatest sportsman.
The 31-year-old Glaswegian was given a helping hand into the professional ranks when he practised with Hendry as a teenager, and rates his compatriot as second to none among Scotland’s sporting legends.
“You would think so. Obviously there’s a couple of football players who would think something different but I’m not a football fan so I would say yes,” Maguire said.
“He’s done everything in the game and he’s done it with a bit of class.”
With 36 ranking titles, six Masters triumphs, and 775 career centuries, Hendry ranks as snooker’s most successful player of the modern era.
He woke today to life as a former tournament snooker player, having turned professional in 1985.
He has commitments to play exhibition events, but does not intend to play competitively again.
Maguire pinpointed Higgins as the only player in the game who might challenge Hendry’s mark of seven world titles. Higgins, 36, has won four times in Sheffield, putting him one ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
“I think the only one that can do it is John,” Maguire said.
“He’s got four and John’s got plenty of years left. He’s the only one really I can see who can match it.”
Maguire was clinical against Hendry, who could not match the form which saw him beat Stuart Bingham 10-4 in round one, when he made a record-equalling third World Championship 147 break, and Higgins 13-4 in round two.
“I know he’ll not be happy with the quarter-finals,” Maguire said.
“But to get another maximum at the Crucible and to beat the defending world champion, he’s left a mark on this tournament again, so fair play to him.”