It has been another record-breaking year on the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker (WLBS) circuit for Dudley’s Reanne Evans, who claimed four of the five ranking events held in 2016 to remain the undisputed world number one in women’s snooker.
The highlight came at the Eden Resources World Championship in April, where she won a landmark 11th world title with a 6-4 success against Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee, winner of the event in 2015.
Further victories came against her closest rival came in the final of the Eden Classic in March and most recently at the semi-final stages of the LITEtask UK Championship in October on her way to a record eighth title, while she also successfully defended the Connie Gough Memorial Trophy in February.
Evans would not enjoy a clean sweep in 2016 however, as world number two On Yee defeated her 4-1 in the final of the inaugural Paul Hunter Ladies Classic in Fuerth, Germany.
On the rise
Few would dispute the status of Evans and On Yee as the leading players on the WLBS tour, but which players have impressed behind them in 2016?
Ending the year third in the rankings is Latvia’s Tatjana Vasiljeva, whose highlights this year included a first WLBS ranking event final at the UK Ladies Championship, as well as a run to the semi-finals of April’s Eden World Championship. The 33-year-old also came to the attention of the wider snooker world at the professional Riga Masters in June, where she lost out to Marco Fu 4-1 in a deceptively tight encounter, two of the frames decided on the final black.
Fourth placed Maria Catalano has enjoyed another solid year, reaching the final of the Connie Gough Memorial Trophy and the last four of the Paul Hunter Classic to stand behind only Evans and On Yee in terms of points earned during 2016.
Next up on that criteria are Laura Evans and Rebecca Granger, who have both made significant moves up the ranking list during the year. Welsh number one Evans returned to the tour with a bang at the final event of 2015, reaching the final of the Eden Masters and has taken that form into this year, consistently reaching the latter stages of events. She ends the year ranked up inside the top 10, with the scope to climb higher if she can maintain that level of performance.
Close behind her is Keighley’s Granger, who having reached the semi-finals of the Eden World Ladies Championship at her first attempt, is already up to 14th in the list and eyeing a place inside of the top ten.
Finally, German national champion Diana Stateczny has also impressed in 2016, reaching the quarter-final stages of each of the two events that she has entered, enough to see her climb to 23rd in the list.
The calendar year has also seen three under-21 events staged in support of the main Women’s World Ranking Series competitions.
The first was held at Derby in support of the Eden Classic, with 19-year-old Yana Shut defeating Claire Edginton to take the title to Belarus.
There was also an overseas winner at the Eden World Ladies Championship as India’s Varshaa Sanjeev defeated South Korea’s Jeong Min Park 3-0 in the final. It was a particularly memorable event for the 19-year-old, as she completed a title double having already won the Plate competition with victory against Suzie Opacic the previous evening.
Most recently, Wakefield’s Stephanie Daughtery claimed the U-21 competition at the LITEtask UK Ladies Championship in Leeds, completing a successful defence of the title that she first won 12 months earlier.
The action continues in 2017 with the Eden Women’s Masters at the Cueball, Derby in January, before the players will fight to win the Connie Gough Trophy in Dunstable a month later.
From there, the tour will head east for the 2017 Eden World Women’s Championship, which for the first time will be held in Singapore at the Lagoon Billiard Room on 13-19 March 2017 with the support of Cuesports Singapore and their chairman Christopher Chuah.
“Earlier this year I was contacted by Mandy, who asked whether Singapore would be keen to host next year’s WLBS World Championship,” said Chuah. “We were only too happy to do so and are now extremely excited by the prospect of hosting the WLBS Eden World Championship next year here in Singapore.”
The event will mark the first time since 1995 that the biggest WLBS tournament will be staged outside of the UK, as the circuit continues to expand globally.
WPBSA supports WLBS
It has been also been a significant year in the development of the WLBS off the baize, as it became a subsidiary body of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), in December 2015.
The following year has seen new events staged with the support of the WPBSA, including the Paul Hunter Ladies Classic, which saw the WLBS hold an event outside of the UK for the first time this decade.
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “As world governing body, the WPBSA must demonstrate equality and diversity in our development plans. The World Professional Snooker Tour is open to anyone who is good enough, however we are now making a conscious effort to encourage more women to take up our sport through their own organisation. We are delighted with the progress made by the WLBS and there is no doubt that in the future we will see more women competing at the top level.”