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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 10:14 GMT
Q&A: Steve Davis
Steve Davis is one of the greatest players ever seen in the modern game.
He has won six World Championship crowns as well as countless other ranking and non-ranking titles over a professional career which has spanned 22 years.
Whilst enjoying his own successful run in the competition the "Golden Nugget" has also been providing expert analysis for the BBC's TV coverage.
Steve took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of your e-mails:
How do you prepare for a match? Is it always the same or different for different players?
Steve Davis: It is always the same routine on the day. I have half an hour practice an hour before a match, and then I usually sit down and read a paper. Sometimes I have a quick knock-up just before the start.
Between tournaments you practice as much as you need. I am not doing that much at the moment, not 'sparring' with anyone to simulate matches. I play with my father - he sets them up and I knock them in!
Do you think Stephen Hendry has a realistic chance of winning another major tournament?
SD: He has a very realistic chance when you consider that he got to the world final last year and could have won his eighth title but for a very spirited performance by Peter Ebdon.
You can't guarantee it will be the biggest ones, but I don't think we have seen the last of Stephen Hendry by any means.
Why are men better than women at snooker and if the rankings were combined where would the top female player be?
SD: Alison Fisher was the highest-ever ranked player - she got inside the top 200 once. Men are better for the same reason they are better at chess! It is not a physical game, so it is probably something to do with testosterone I imagine!
What makes a referee call a miss? Can the referee keep calling a miss? Or is the game lost?
SD: The rule was introduced to stop perceived cheating. Any shot considered not a fair attempt was called a miss. But players started to complain that referees were inconsistent so it became a hybrid rule, where everything was called a miss, because it was easier not to have to judge whether someone was trying to get out of it or not. Now, 99% of the time, you have got to hit it or it is called a miss. The only time a miss is not called now is when snookers are required.
How much longer do you think you can keep going? Do you love the game as much as you used to?
ST: I haven't got a clue how long I can keep going. It is not physical but other things come into it, such as the continual improvement in standards. Even remaining consistent may not be enough.
I probably don't love it as much as I used to, but still enough to put the practice in and enjoy it. I don't practice the hours I used to. The desire for that changed because at one stage the game was still a mystery and an adventure, whereas there are very few things now that are outside my knowledge. Trying to repeat it is more of a problem.
I have a highest break of 52 but I am struggling with my tracking. What way of practising do you suggest?
SD: Try a spell watching the cue come backwards on the final backswing, to make sure you are actually pulling the cue back in a straight line. If you are not doing that you can't be pushing it through on a straight line.
Prince Aaamir, Manchester
What was going through your mind when Stephen Hendry won his seventh World Championship?
ST: I thought there was an inevitability about the fact that he was good enough to win. From a selfish perspective of keeping the record, I wasn't that interested once I had been knocked out of the tournament myself. If it wasn't going to be me, it was going to be someone else and Stephen was by far the strongest player in the 1990s.
William Denny, Oxford
Why do kicks happen? And why do they sometimes occur more frequently in some games than others?
SD: People talk about static electricity but in my opinion it is all related to chalk dust that sticks to the cue ball. That can be because of static or humidity, and it can also be embedded into the cue ball with the striking shot. If chalk is in between the contact, you get an explosion to varying degrees.
Gary Hearfield, UK
As snooker players gets older what facets of his game decrease?
SD: The central nervous system must come into it from the moment you hit a certain age, the same way that a teenage kid would be better on a Playstation than a 40-year-old bloke. You are only a piece of meat that is deteriorating, so you can't afford to abuse yourself as you get older. The likes of Jimmy White, who used to go out partying, has now become much more professional because he has to.
Ryan Curtis, UK
When leaning over a pot what do you focus your eyes on - The cue ball, the object ball, the pocket or a mixture of both?
SD: You alternate between the cue ball and the object ball, and everybody has their own routine for that. The most important part is the last part - pulling the cue back and pushing it through. Stephen Hendry prefers to keep his eyes on the cue ball, whereas Jimmy White gets his eyes early to the object ball. More important is to go through with the cue straight.
Andy Smith, England
When did you realise your domination was ending? Was this more down to a decline in your ability or an overall rise in standards?
SD: An overall rise in standards and the rise of Stephen Hendry. Also many other players started to push me closer. Sometimes standards jump up overnight but over time, we have all risen because of Stephen Hendry's performances. I have probably improved my own game without even knowing it.
How long do you think it will take for someone from Asia to become world champion?
SD: Longer than it would do if we had a regular tournament set up over there. The problem for Asian players is they have to come and live in the UK. It is much easier when it is on your doorstep.
I hoped there would have been more coming through by now, because it would have helped snooker's development. But you only need one phenomenon to come through. There is a 15-year-old Chinese kid who's won everything at junior level who's supposed to be good enough.
Any hints about the best way to play away from a cushion, as I always seem to miscue?
SD: It is harder to cue centrally. You have to imagine the whole ball so you are trying to cue on the centre of the top of the ball. Don't get so low as usual - there is nothing wrong with jacking up the butt end of the cue. Make sure you are chalked up, and try to hit the shot smoothly. Perhaps slow your cue action down a bit as well.
I have my lower right arm missing, so I have no bridge hand; I use my elbow instead. Have you seen any other one-armed snooker players?
SD: A guy called Roger Lee has some very old archive footage of a one-armed player - a guy called Arthur somebody - who used to play trick shots. He used to use the brush you brush the table with as a bridge.
I am also aware of a player with no bridge hand who has different attachments - a la Captain Hook - for cueing up over the top of balls. He has different things he can snap onto the end of his arm. So you are not the only one Graham.
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