Bullish Davis 'in it to win it' after setting up Higgins showdown

STEVE Davis believes he can mark his 30th Crucible campaign by springing one of the greatest shocks in World Championship history.

The 52-year-old begins his last-16 clash against defending champion John Higgins tonight and after a tense 10-9 victory over Mark King in the first round, the six-times former champion heads into the match believing he stands a chance of toppling the Scot.

Davis has not won a major title since 1995, and his last Crucible semi-final appearance came a year prior to that. Higgins will start as firm favourite, but Davis said: "I shall be going in to try to win it. I've made my mind up, I'm fed up of making up the numbers, so I'm here to try to win, but it's going to be tough against him because he's a hard player.

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"Three sessions. Three sessions of granite, that's what I want."

Higgins got his first-round match out of the way on Saturday, and confirmed he wanted a showdown with his boyhood hero. "I'd love to play him as well," Davis said. "He's a great, great player. Hopefully I can raise my standard a little bit – it can happen that, against a great player, you play with nothing to lose.

"But I feel as though I'm playing all right – all right-ish – so I've just got to look forward to the match and try to win it."

Davis suggests that his approach to the event is paying off. He said: "I just got myself mentally right for this match and this tournament. I just thought, 'I'm coming here to win rather than to acquit myself well'. I actually practised for this. I did!"

King plays frequently with Davis in Romford, their shared home town, and was angered when it was suggested to him last month that drawing the veteran was ideal. "Not in a million years is Steve an easy draw, whether he's 52 or 72," King argued. "He's a class act. He's one of those people who has looked after himself in the gym and he doesn't go clubbing and that's why he's still number 20-odd at 52. If I'm that ranking at 52 I'd be over the moon. People who say those things should grow up."

Davis had strong support for sentimental reasons on Tuesday night, and duly became the oldest winner of a Crucible match since Eddie Charlton beat Cliff Thorburn at the age of 59 in 1989. But the partisan nature of the audience grated with King, who said: "I've never had a crowd so against me ever. It's understandable but I let it get to me a couple of times. There was a geezer right in my ear, even if the ball was hanging, going 'Shot Steve'."

Hardly can a victory have raised the spirits of a player so much as it did for Davis.

He was mapping out his future with the enthusiasm of a player half his age, and despite being a board member with the sport's ruling body, the WPBSA, the Romford veteran remains committed to the playing side of his career. WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn is proposing an enhanced schedule for 2010-11, and Davis said: "If it does open up and there's a lot more tournaments, I might give it my best go, to play in all of the small events. There's talk about lots of small events all over the country and in Europe. If it does go ahead, then I'll go to everything and try to be a snooker player again, pay my dues and see what happens."

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Meanwhile, Ryan Day became the highest-profile casualty so far when the world No 6 lost 10-8 to qualifier Mark Davis. Ding Junhui tied up a comprehensive 10-1 win over Preston's Stuart Pettman, while Neil Robertson enjoyed a comfortable 10-5 victory over Fergal O'Brien.

Scotland's Stephen Maguire is 6-3 up on Stephen Lee and they will play to a finish today.