Ronnie O’Sullivan’s absence from the snooker scene has given Mark Davis a precious berth in the top 16. He tells STEVE CARROLL how he plans to take advantage at the UK Championship in York

CAN you see Mark Davis’ name on the UK Snooker Championship trophy come Sunday, December 9? He can.

The old adage has certainly been true for the Sussex-based potter. Life – or success at any rate – has begun at 40.

Two semi-final appearances, in the Wuxi Classic and the Australian Goldfields Open, have given Davis the confidence to believe he can finally bag a big tournament and, after 21 years as a professional, he has forced his way into the game’s top 16 for the first time.

It’s a position that has come with some fortune. Had Ronnie O’Sullivan not decided to take a year out of the game, Davis would have been in the familiar position of having to win a qualifier to make the televised stages in York as the world champion is always a seed in the top events – regardless of their position in the world rankings.

But Davis is among the game’s elite on merit and he is insistent that he can be the last man standing at the Barbican. “Because Ronnie was world champion he would have been in the tournament but all I can do is be in a position – and I was just outside,” he said. “Ronnie decided to have a year off. I think he’s made the right decision.

“Not because I am in. He’s having a year off to do what he has got to do and you have to be in a position to take advantage of these things. I was ranked 17. I’ve been really close for the last two or three years and I haven’t got in. That’s my fault.

“But I think I am there on merit and I am going to take advantage of it. I would like to be there without this happening, but I deserve to be there. I have proved I can compete. I won the six-red championship in July and got to two semi-finals at the start of the season so I have been playing pretty well.

“When I had to qualify for events I was getting through and I have been playing well at the venues – although not pushing on as much as I would like. All in all, I’ve been pretty consistent.”

Ding Junhui needed to fluke the match ball to scrape past Davis in the first round at York a year ago but the Hastings cueman’s lasting impression of the 6-5 defeat was that he “didn’t get the job done”.

He’s been working with Terry Griffiths on the mental side of his game and reckons the proliferation of new tournaments, one of the promises made by Barry Hearn when he took control of World Snooker, has given him consistency.

“I’ve had a change of attitude and Terry has been a massive help,” Davis added. “I’ve just done little things – nothing too technical – and been working mainly on the mental side.

“When I am practising, I am trying to do the right things. In practice you have to do more than just go through the motions – more than just hitting balls about. I am working on specific things and that has helped as well.

“Thanks to Barry Hearn, the more tournaments we have got has helped everyone. I am certainly one of the ones it has helped. We are playing every week and it’s no coincidence I’ve improved and my consistency has improved. We really haven’t got any breaks now.

“I should have beaten Ding last year and I was disappointed not to. I probably played a bit better than him and I couldn’t get the job done. I was very disappointed. The aim is to get the results and try to put that right this year.”

Davis faces a first round clash with China’s Cao Yupeng on the opening day and may need to knock out John Higgins and Mark Allen, should the seeds all get through, if he is to reach the latter stages of the competition. But he does not lack belief.

He explained: “I am looking to push on and get to finals now. I want to get my hands on some trophies before I retire – I am not going there to try to win a couple of matches. I want to take it as far as I can. The ideal thing is to win the tournament.

“I know how tough it will be with Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, John Higgins and so on. We’ve got a lot of games against tough, tough, players but I know when I play my best I can compete with them.

“Hopefully, I can do that at York. That would be a great one to win. It’s a massive tournament.”

Order of play UK Snooker Championship
York Barbican, December 1 to 9

Round 1 (best of 11 frames)

1 Judd Trump v Mark Joyce Sunday, December 2, 2pm

2 Ali Carter v Steve Davis Sunday, December 2, 2pm

3 Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski Sunday, December 2, 7pm

4 Stephen Maguire v Fergal O’Brien Saturday, December 1, 2pm

5 Mark Williams v Mark King Monday, December 3, 7pm

6 Ricky Walden v Luca Brecel Monday, December 3, 7pm

7 Graeme Dott v Martin Gould Saturday, December 1, 7pm

8 Shaun Murphy v Robert Milkins Sunday, December 2, 11am

9 John Higgins v Michael Holt Saturday, December 1, 11am

10 Mark Davis v Cao Yupeng Sunday, December 2, 11am

11 Matthew Stevens v Dominic Dale Monday, December 3, 1pm

12 Mark Allen v Marco Fu Sunday, December 2, 7pm

13 Neil Robertson v Tom Ford Monday, December 3, 1pm

14 Barry Hawkins v Liang Wenbo Saturday, December 1, 11am

15 Ding Junhui v Ryan Day Saturday, December 1, 2pm

16 Mark Selby v Michael White Saturday, December 1, 7pm

Round 2 (best of 11 frames)

17 Winner of match 1 v winner of match 2 Tuesday, December 4, 1pm

18 Winner of match 3 v winner of match 4 Tuesday, December 4, 7pm

19 Winner of match 5 v winner of match 6 Wednesday, December 5, 1pm

20 Winner of match 7 v winner of match 8 Tuesday, December 4, 7pm

21 Winner of match 9 v winner of match 10 Wednesday, December 5, 7pm

22 Winner of match 11 v winner of match 12 Tuesday, December 4, 1pm

23 Winner of match 13 v winner of match 14 Wednesday, December 5, 7pm

24 Winner of match 15 v winner of match 16 Wednesday, December 5, 1pm

Quarter-finals (best of 11 frames)

25 Winner of match 17 v winner of match 18 Thursday, December 6

26 Winner of match 19 v winner of match 20 Thursday, December 6

27 Winner of match 21 v winner of match 22 Thursday, December 6

28 Winner of match 23 v winner of match 24 Thursday, December 6

Semi-finals (best of 17 frames)

29 Winner of match 25 v winner of match 26

30 Winner of match 27 v winner of match 28 Both Friday, December 7 and Saturday, December 8

Final (best of 19 frames) Sunday, December 9, 2.15pm, 8pm

• For tickets, phone 0844 854 2757