Monday, 7 March 2011

Mark Davis EXCLUSIVE interview

Mark Davis has been on the professional circuit for 20 years without disruption.

But currently ranked just outside of the top 16, he's enjoying one of his most consistent seasons to date.

Despite years battling through the qualifiers, his motivation to play the game hasn't wained. A trip to the quarter-finals of this season's Shanghai Masters has been his highlight of a good season.

This weekend he bids to make it to the Crucible.

OnCue caught up with the Sussex man to see how life as one of the sport's veterans is treating him.

He talks critically about his own career and relives some of his World Championship nightmares...

You were involved in the Championship League last week for the first time. How did you find that?

It was a good tournament. I missed a few balls I shouldn’t have but I didn’t get much of a look in for a lot of my matches either. I lost 3-0 to Matthew Stevens and and only got a couple of half chances, but that can happen in the shorter format.

It was disappointing to go out but to be invited to play in it shows I’m doing quite well in the rankings, which is the most important thing. I see it as a bonus event. It’s not a ranking event but it helps to keep me sharp and offers good money.

You did get a result at the China Open qualifiers though the week before to make it to another venue. You must have been pleased with that...

Yes I beat Jame Wattana. The match was a real long one too with a  lot of long frames. He’s a tough, tough player. He used to be high up in the rankings. I’ve spent long enough playing at the qualifiers to know how tough it is, and this match was no exception. 

I’m only having to win one match at the qualifiers because of my ranking at the moment. It’s good that you’re so close to the venue but I know how difficult it can be. You’re turning up and playing someone who’s had one, two or even three matches already. They’ve obviously been winning so they’re confident and relaxed. It can be good to build a bit of momentum for the final match but obviously you’d rather be where I am.

You’ve got the World Championship qualifiers coming up later this week too. How have preparations been practicing for that?

Yeah good. I don’t normally change too much even in the build-up to a big tournament. I just practice how I feel I need to but I’ve been hitting the table often enough lately.

You could meet Kyren Wilson, Joe Swail or Rory McLeod. What do you make of those potential matches?

They’re all tough. I’ve seen Kyren play before. He’s under the same management as me. He’s a handy player. Everyone knows about Joe Swail as well. He’s had a couple of off seasons where he’s dropped down but he’s made it to the semi-finals at the Crucible before. He made the final of the Welsh a couple of years ago, and he probably is where he is in the rankings now because those points came off recently. He’s very dangerous though. 

I don’t remember playing McLeod too much but he’s one of the real battlers out there. It’ll be a slog against him, so I need to get my practice in before going to Sheffield.

We hear a lot about how special it is to play at the Crucible. What do you feel about it?

I’ve had a couple of real horror shows at the Crucible down the years. I played against Stephen Hendry and was absolute garbage once but the one that sticks in mind most is in 2008 against Mark Williams. I had a bug and felt like absolute crap. I think I went 5-0 down and just wanted to go home. So, yes it’s a good place to play but it all depends. 

It’s got a special feel to it and it can be great to play at. But when it’s not going well, it’s a nightmare because there’s nowhere to hide. I’d like to get there again and go on a run. That’s why the qualifiers are so tough. You can ask anyone and they all want to get to the Crucible. The competition this weekend will be fierce.

You’ve got the PTC grand finals on the horizon as well. Did you enjoy the new events?

I thought they were good tournaments. I played in them all and was quite consistent in the early ones and then I went on to make a semi-final. I won most first round matches and that picked me up some good ranking points. It’s good to have more tournaments. They were well run and some fair prize money was available.

It’s what all the players want, although I do think the points system needs looking at. Players were getting 360 points for going through the first round, and a lot of players were getting byes. You don’t expect things to be perfect in the first year, so a few changes would help. The main thing was that it kept me feeling sharp through the season.

Another new tournament this season was the Shoot-Out. What did you make of that?

I thought it was a brilliant tournament and venue. There was great banter with the crowd. I don’t see any harm in that. I’d like to see them played once or twice a year.

Earlier in the season you made it to the quarter-finals at the Shanghai Masters as well. That’s your joint best performance in a major ranking event. How pleased were you with that?

That event was during the PTC

Obviously Jamie went onto the final, but that doesn’t mean I would have. I might have lost the next match, or I might have won the whole tournament. You never know. I was gutted because making the semi-final would have been a bit of a milestone, but it wasn’t to be.

How do you assess your season as a whole?

I’ve been pretty consistent. I’m pleased to have moved up the rankings and do what I know I’m capable of. I lost in the qualifiers for the Welsh and German but I’m still battling hard for the top 16.

What would it mean to you to break into there?

I’d like to get in there – and it could happen at the end of the season. But I’m not sure how significant it would be. It’s not like in seasons gone by that when you get in there, you’ve got an entire season guaranteed. You could be straight out of there after two events. It does mean something of course but you can’t relax anyway. You’d probably be happier to make it in there for the cut-off for the Masters and World Championship, but you can’t really choose when you get in there.  Everyone wants to be in the top 16 though of course.

Have you set yourself any targets?

I don’t ever set targets. I don’t bother with them. If I set them, does that mean I’ve got nothing left to do if I achieve it? I just work as hard as I can and do as well as I can. I’d like to move up the rankings each year like any player but it’s not always easy with how tough the qualifiers are.

Are there any players in the qualifiers at the moment that you think have a particularly bright future or that you want to avoid in the draws?

I haven’t seen lots of him but Jack Lisowski seems to be getting some great results. He’s improving quite quickly. I’m sure there are players I’ve got bad records against but none of them really spring to mind because I don’t let it bother me. Maybe players who have good records against me come into matches against me geed up but every game is different so it doesn’t effect me. I remember Ryan Day had a great record against me but I beat him at the Crucible last year.

Who do you practice with and get on with from the qualifiers?

There’s a few players. Jimmy Robertson, Stuart Bingham, Matt Selt, Barry Hawkins, Gerard Greene and Joe Perry. They’re all good players and good mates as well. It shows you how much quality is on the tour because Jimmy is an exceptional player but he’s been fighting just to stay on this season. I can get on well with most people but me, Barry, Gerard and Joe hang about together on tournaments and have a good craic. 

We’ve all qualified for China so we’ll have a few games of cards in between matches, which passes a few hours. There’s nothing worse than sitting in your room and thinking about matches. I like to have a bit of fun and relax.

We've seen what like on the table. But what are you like away from it?

I’ve got a family and I’m married. That takes a lot of my time up. I play a bit of golf but this season I’ve been travelling around a lot, so I’ve used most of my free time to be with my family. I had a good break over Christmas, which was nice.

You’ve been a pro for a long time now. What keeps you motivated?

It beats getting a proper job. I find it harder than I used to. I probably don’t practice as much as I should do but for as long as I still feel I can earn a decent living out of snooker, I’ll continue to play.

What do you look back on as your biggest achievements in snooker?

I look back and think I’ve done nothing, as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure there are hundreds of professionals who would swap places with me. I won the Six-Reds competition in 2009 and the Benson & Hedges in 2002 to get to the Masters, but I look back and think it’s pathetic. I think I’ve had a problem with the mental side of the game. I’ve been weak. I know what I can do. I’m capable of producing good snooker, so to me, three quarter-finals of major ranking events is not a good record.

Finally, if you weren’t a snooker player, what would you be doing?

Oh god, that’s such a hard question. Ever since I walked in a snooker club at 12 or 13, that’s been my aim. My old headmaster even used to let me off from school early to go to play. It would be difficult to give up. I’d rather keep playing snooker. I reckon I’ve got another two or three years left at least. But if I had to, maybe something with numbers. Accounts. That sounds boring but I’ve done a bookkeeping course before at home.

1 comment:

  1. What he says is interesting. It is hard for someone that has played their whole life to decide what they want to do in the business world. When I was little, I used to play tennis a lot. I even participated in some competitions held abroad. I remember once I had one in Argentina, and I was staying in one of those furnished apartments in buenos aires when a neighbour asked me: What would you like to do when you grow up? I thought playing tennis was the answer, but then I realized there is much more to explore in this world and many other fun activities that are not related to sports. Back then I didn´t know!