World Snooker Championship: Stephen Hendry & Steve Davis relive Crucible classics

By Shamoon Hafez & Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry
Steve Davis (left) and Stephen Hendry won 13 World titles between them

Saturday was supposed to be the start of this year's World Championship.

But like so much of the sporting calendar, the championship has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting on Saturday, BBC Two will showcase 17 days of unforgettable, classic matches that took place at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis - who won 13 world titles between them - relive the memories of the matches they feature in.

'Everyone enjoyed seeing the favourite get his bum smacked'

1982: Steve Davis 1-10 Tony Knowles, first round - Saturday 18 April (15:00 BST)

Davis was heavy favourite going into the match having won six trophies that season including the UK Championship and the Masters.

But the underdog Knowles created one of the most memorable upsets in Crucible history, recording a huge victory.

Davis: "I had a year of being world champion and really enjoying that. I had been playing some good stuff and having a great time winning events but all of a sudden, as it got closer, I started to feel the pressure of what has now become the Crucible curse - where any first-time winner finds the next year more daunting than actually winning it for the first time.

"Tony Knowles got off to a good start. He was always a good player when he was on form, and he when he got in a rhythm he was a great player. All of a sudden everyone got excited. I slipped a few frames behind and instead of digging in I just collapsed.

"The whole match for me was just wanting the ground to swallow me up so I could get out of the place. It was a pretty weak mental performance but Tony played his part.

"It was a learning curve but I just remember it being horrible and desperately wanting to try to get over it and for the next season to start. Nobody likes to be sitting there getting soundly beaten and, of course, everybody quite enjoyed the fact that the odds-on favourite was getting his bum smacked. That made it doubly hard because I sensed the glee in the room."

'I was like a rabbit in the headlights'

1984: Steve Davis 18-16 Jimmy White, final - Monday 20 April (14:00 BST)

Davis was the only player to have won the title twice in Sheffield and was attempting to become the first player to successfully defend it.

White was looking to add the World crown to the Masters title he had won four months earlier but there was disappointment in his first Crucible final.

Davis: "I had started to win a lot of matches by big distances. Not just winning but dominating to the point where I had sessions to spare.

"Being 12-4 up overnight I didn't have a very good night's sleep because the problem I had was that being that far ahead you can do no better than that. You try to keep an approach of business as usual and look to share frames, but the temptation is to go 'what if the other guy comes back?'.

"Obviously everyone is willing Jimmy to come back and he came out all guns blazing and I went into my shell again, looking over my shoulder and waiting for Jimmy to catch up. Instead of playing the game, playing the balls and the table, I was like a rabbit in the headlights.

"In the last few frames, even though they were tense, I played more competitively. I missed a couple of easy balls and in the end I sort of fell over the line so it was more of a relief to win that match."

'Both of us were like gibbering idiots by the end'

1985: Steve Davis 17-18 Dennis Taylor, final - Sunday 3 May (13:00 BST)

The 'black-ball final' has to be the greatest match of all time. It finished well past midnight and was watched by an audience of 18.5m on BBC TV.

Davis, a three-time winner and world number one, was expected to beat 36-year-old Taylor with ease, especially after opening up an 8-0 lead.

Remarkably, Taylor fought his way back, forcing a deciding frame and the rest is history.

Davis: "It's still an iconic final and one I am still synonymous with even though I lost. In one respect I look at it and go, 'I was 8-0 up and that's awful,' but what's done is done.

"I was 8-0 up and 9-7 up overnight and day two was just a fair fight effectively and we both scrambled our way towards the finishing line. It wasn't the greatest snooker in the world but it doesn't have to be to be exciting. Both of us were like gibbering idiots by the end.

"The last frame wasn't exactly wonderful snooker. I missed a pink early on and that was horrendous. I watched the final frame recently and I can accept missing that black but that pink I missed when I was among the balls was terrible. My jaw just dropped and I just thought, 'how on earth did I miss that?' I was plumb on it. But that's what pressure can do.

"Dennis rarely gets the credit for it but he was playing some of the best snooker at that time. He had a purple patch for a couple of years where he was as strong as anyone in the game. He showed great fighting spirit in that match and when the dust settled his name is on the trophy.

"For months after losing to Dennis I was bereft of enjoying the summer months and was waiting for the new season to start to try to help me get over it."

'He seemed to love every minute of it'

1986: Steve Davis 12-18 Joe Johnson, final - Wednesday 22 April (14:00 BST)

Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson won one ranking title in his career - the 1986 World Championship

After the drama of the previous year's final, Davis was expected to crush the 150-1 outsider from Bradford but Johnson defied the odds by producing one of the major shocks in Crucible history.

Davis: "I had always known from the amateur days how great a player Joe was and it was always a surprise to anyone in the game that he hadn't produced a better standard as a professional because we all knew how talented he was.

"When he finally won his first match at the Crucible perhaps the tension released and he played some great snooker. He backed it up again the following year by making the final. And even though he never really did anything else in the game, he has come as close as anybody to breaking the Crucible curse.

"He completely outplayed me. I felt like I was always playing catch-up against a player playing classier shots, who was more in control. He was enjoying himself and that match was a real struggle for me.

"At the end I had a completely different mindset from when I lost to Dennis Taylor. I had to just put my hands up and say 'what a performance. Well played'.

"It was a much easier defeat to take. Joe seemed to love every minute of it."

'It was pretty devastating'

1988: Jimmy White 13-12 Stephen Hendry, second round - Thursday 23 April (14:00 BST)

This was the first time these two players had met in Sheffield. On this occasion, 'Whirlwind' White won the match in the deciding frame.

Hendry: "I remember the deciding frame at 12-12 where he got down to play a safety shot but got back up again and went for a difficult red down the cushion and fired it in. He ended up making a match-winning break.

"From thinking I am going to have another shot here because he is playing safe to the match being over was pretty devastating.

"We had played against each other a few times in other events and had no idea what was to come between us."

'He was wiping the sweat off his forehead'

1992: Stephen Hendry 18-14 Jimmy White, final - Friday 24 April (14:00 BST)

Jimmy White
Jimmy White was beaten in four World finals by Stephen Hendry

This was the second of the four finals contested between Hendry and White. The Englishman raced into a 14-8 lead but then Hendry won 10 frames in a row, with three centuries in the last five frames.

Hendry: "I was 14-8 behind and there were two frames remaining in the afternoon session. I knew that I needed to win at least one of them to have a chance in the evening but I took both for 14-10 behind and was right back in it.

"Jimmy was the better player but the last two frames of that session were huge and the break I made to win the 24th frame included one of the best shots of my career, potting a brown off the spot from the last red and getting on the yellow.

"I don't think I won 10 in a row anywhere else and certainly nowhere as important as a World final. That is the secret at the Crucible though - if you can gain momentum and start winning three, four frames in a row then your opponent is bang under it.

"He gets desperate to win a frame and then it gets even more difficult. You can reel off lots of frames in a row and it has been done to me and I have done it to others. It is the beauty of the long-framed, multi-session matches.

"I was getting more and more confident and I could see Jimmy was getting more under pressure. He started to hit the ball a bit harder, he was wiping the sweat off his forehead more often with his towel, he was getting more fidgety in his seat and in an individual sport when you are one on one, you have to try and sense these weaknesses."

'I felt invincible at the Crucible'

1994: Stephen Hendry 18-17 Jimmy White, final - Saturday 25 April (12:30 BST)

White was appearing in his fifth straight final, sixth in total and was still waiting to lift the trophy. Hendry, who played the tournament with a fractured elbow after a bathroom fall, inflicted more heartbreak.

Hendry: "I fractured my elbow after the first session of my second-round match against Dave Harold, I was 6-2 up overnight and slipped in the bathroom in the hotel. Getting up in the morning, my arm was at right angles and I could not even strain it. My whole tournament was in danger but fortunately I was able to play on and ended up winning it.

"Jimmy missed a famous black off the spot in the decider when he was looking like he was going to win it. In our career we can still look at shots which sends shivers down our spine, mine would be the infamous black against Mark Williams in the final of the 1998 Masters.

"That missed black from Jimmy, I am sure that will still wake him up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat. If he had potted that he might have gone on to win it but he twitched it violently - we have all done it - but it did not even get close to the pocket. I seized my opportunity with a great clearance.

"I felt invincible at the Crucible. I just felt so at home playing there, I loved the pressure of it and enjoyed it so much in that arena."

'It was the only grudge match I played'

2002: Stephen Hendry 17-13 Ronnie O'Sullivan, semi-final - Sunday 26 April (14:00 BST)

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O'Sullivan saw his hopes of defending the title disappear

O'Sullivan had stoked the fires with a verbal attack on Hendry, promising to "send him home to Scotland".

But the Scot got his revenge, winning an exciting encounter full of high-quality breaks, only to lose the final to Peter Ebdon.

Hendry: "I was in the hotel in the morning of the match and my road manager John Carroll brought me the paper showing me what Ronnie had said. It was completely out of the blue and probably the only grudge match I played in my career.

"If you weren't already up for a semi-final of the World Championship then that made you even more determined. We have spoken about it since and he was influenced by other people around him to say certain things. It is all good now and long forgotten.

"After beating Ronnie with the whole intensity of the match, I went into the final not even thinking for a second that Peter could beat me over 35 frames. That was a bad attitude but it was a match I did not expect to lose.

"I did not think it would be my last final but it did turn out to be."

And finally... filling the void in isolation

Davis: "It is so strange at the moment. I would have been commentating so will obviously miss the tournament. I will certainly watch a fair few of the classic matches on the BBC.

"I might even go on Twitter and have a bit of a laugh during the Dennis Taylor final. I have been watching some good boxsets like Chernobyl, The Prisoner from the 1960s and 70s and will be watching Curb Your Enthusiasm from the first series."

Hendry: "I have been on at Steve to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm so he is going to watch them from the start and all the way through. I have watched it a million times, it is my favourite so have got him onto it now.

"We go out for a walk for an hour or two every day and the weather is nice so you can spend time chilling out on the balcony. Killing Eve is one that I have watched which was really good.

"I have been doing a lot of cooking and putting them on my Instagram and I have done some live Q&As with Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Matt Selt and John Terry.

"I am sure I will watch most of the matches, what else have we got to do anyway?"