1987/88 snooker season
Snooker Seasons

1987/88 Snooker Season: Steve Davis’ Major Sweep

The latest chapter in a series of articles looking back at each campaign from the Crucible era.

The 1987/88 snooker season saw long-term world number one Steve Davis at his mightiest peak.

An unprecedented Triple Crown of majors was tallied by the Englishman this term as his control of the game was at its strongest.

Many point to the rivalry between Davis and Alex Higgins, and of course that head-to-head did conjure several memorable battles throughout the 1980s.



But Davis’ biggest challenger at this point was more realistically Jimmy White, a fellow Londoner who was gradually beginning to take over the mantle of the People’s Champion from Higgins.

Davis and White teamed up with Neal Foulds to win the 1988 World Cup – ending Higgins and Ireland’s dominance in the tournament, albeit only after the decision was taken to split the island into north and south teams.

Around this period on the regular circuit, numerous finals and semi-finals were being contested between Davis and White too, with the latter now established as the world’s number two.

Davis ultimately enjoyed the better of their duels, but it was often close, as underlined in their 1987 UK Championship final in Preston.

Early on, the “Whirlwind” led 5-2, but soon after there was never more than a frame between them right up until Davis edged in front with a century break at 15-14.

It was either going to be a decider or a two-frame victory, and sure enough Davis held on – just as he did in their World Championship final three years earlier – to etch his name onto the major trophy for the fourth year in a row.

It marked Davis’ sixth UK crown in total, a record that stood until just a couple of years ago when Ronnie O’Sullivan finally eclipsed it in York.

After emerging victorious at the Masters with a humbling 9-0 thrashing of Mike Hallett in London, Davis headed to Sheffield with history in the making.

A fifth Crucible crown was rarely in doubt and, indeed, it was arguably his most comfortable world title in all until then.

Davis narrowly edged out John Virgo 10-8 in the first round but lost only 13 more frames in reaching the final – including another demolition of Hallett – before easily overcoming Terry Griffiths in the final.

The “Nugget”, who would later in 1988 become the first and only snooker player to ever win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, was simply unstoppable.

Or so it seemed, because during the 1987/88 snooker season there was a new kid on the block beginning to make his breakthrough.

Teenager Stephen Hendry had already created a sensation by performing well in both of the last two World Championships.

But the Scot truly announced himself as a credible contender by beating Davis en route to capturing the 1987 Grand Prix – at the time becoming the youngest ever ranking event winner.

A few months later, it was a double for the recently turned 19 year-old, as he destroyed the poor Hallett 13-2 in the final of the British Open.

The latter was smart enough to team up with Hendry in the last World Doubles Championship, though, with the pair overcoming Dennis Taylor and Cliff Thorburn to lift the cup together.

This hat-trick of standout victories for Hendry meant that he was now firmly on everyone’s radar, and it wasn’t going to be long until he started to express himself in the majors as well.

ICYMI: 1986/87 Snooker Season

Meanwhile, there were a couple of other noteworthy happenings during the 1987/88 snooker season that require a mention.

Willie Thorne’s affinity with the UK Championship took a battering in 1985 when he infamously missed a straightforward blue when in control of the final against Steve Davis, only to subsequently collapse and lose his biggest chance of a major title.

But two years later Thorne was back in love with the ranking event as he became only the fourth player in the history of the game to compile a competitive 147 break.

Fortunes were not so good for Alex Higgins, whose tumultuous off-table antics that continuously made the tabloid newspapers were beginning to take a serious toll on his consistency and form.

The Northern Irishman’s 10-2 defeat to Tony Drago in the 1988 World Championship resulted in him dropping out of the world’s top 16, and the following term Higgins would fail to qualify for the Crucible at all.



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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the English Open – won by Neil Robertson.

1. Mark Selby
2. Judd Trump
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan
4. Neil Robertson
5. Kyren Wilson
6. Shaun Murphy
7. John Higgins
8. Stephen Maguire
9. Mark Williams
10. Ding Junhui
11. Mark Allen
12. Yan Bingtao
13. Stuart Bingham
14. Barry Hawkins
15. Jack Lisowski
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy