Veteran steals show in Hainan

BOAO, Hainan province - There was world No 1 John Higgins, seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry and local favorite Ding Junhui, but 62-year-old Dennis Taylor stole the show at the China Life-Xingpai Classic in Hainan.

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It has been a decade since Taylor last took part in a televised match, so playing against the world's top players both stressed and excited the former world champion.

"I was very nervous. My last match on television against the top players was with John Higgins in 2001. So to be invited back, I was very nervous and I was little bit tense. But, of course, I also enjoyed it ... very, very good," Taylor said.

"Really, I haven't played any snooker for 10 years, no snooker at all until last year when we had a seniors event. I played a little bit. But to come back to play on TV against the top players is very difficult," said the Northern Irishman, who lost to top 10s Shaun Murphy and Allister Carter and local player Tian Pengfei at the Hainan event.

Despite dropping all three of his group matches in straight frames, the former world No 2, who was invited only a week before the tournament to fill in for Hong Kong's Marco Fu, impressed the fans with some sparkling pots and his famous "goggles".

"It is a great opportunity to come back to China. The first time I came was in 1985. I came with Steve Davis. That was even before Ding was born. Now I talk about Ding on TV," said Taylor, a snooker commentator for BBC.

Taylor turned pro in 1972 and said the talent pool was much deeper nowadays.

"When I retired, I was 50. So I played in '70s, '80s, '90s and 2000. So I played four decades now, more players play at a high standard. Thirty years ago, there were only about five players playing at a high standard. Now, the top 64 are all very good," he said.

Taylor reached his peak at the 1985 World Championships final when he, then 35, defeated Steve Davis 18-17 after potting the decisive black ball in the final frame.

"That match in the World Championship against Davis is still the record for viewing figures (of pool) on BBC. It is still the biggest audience ever. In the UK, they voted on the 100 greatest sporting moments ever and our final was No 7. It was very good," Taylor said.

However, now he is happy to fade into the background and devote more time to his family.

"No time for snooker now because my eldest daughter in April will be 40 and my youngest daughter in November will be four. I have three grown-ups, one boy six and one girl four. I have no time for snooker. And, no more babies," he said.

(China Daily)