This weekend sees the return of the World Women’s Snooker Tour returns with the LITEtask UK Women’s Championship 2017, the second ranking event of the new season.
Among the field will be current WLBS world number eight Suzie Opacic, who is looking forward to returning to the baize having missed out on the recent Paul Hunter Women’s Classic won by Reanne Evans in Germany.
We caught up with Suzie recently to look ahead to this weekend’s tournament, hear why she believes that recent changes to the Tour have given women’s snooker a real boost and also learn more about her life away from the table…
Hi Suzie, you are currently preparing for your first event of the new season this weekend in Leeds. How much are you looking forward to getting back to the baize for what will be your first event of the new season?
I’ve still been practising over the summer and I’m really looking forward to getting back into tournament play after missing the Paul Hunter Women’s Classic.
I was surprised that I managed to hold onto eighth spot in the rankings despite missing the event in Germany, so I am hoping that I can have a good tournament in Leeds and push on up the rankings.
You played well in Leeds last year and were unfortunate to lose out in a decider to eventual runner up Tatjana Vasiljeva. What are your targets for this year?
To not lose as many deciders! I had a number of very close matches last season at crucial times, and so hopefully this season I can maintain my composure under pressure and win those vital frames when they really matter.
I always just aim to do my absolute best at a tournament – at the end of the day it’s all down to how you play on the day and everything clicking into place!
You have been competing on the tour for most of the last decade but we have seen some big developments over the past 12 months, notably with tournaments overseas in Germany and Singapore. What have you made of the changes and the direction that the tour is heading in?
Yes, my first tournament was in 2006. I had a four-year break from the circuit largely due to studying and completing a Masters, but also because the circuit was going downhill, with low entry numbers, fewer tournaments and no real incentive to play.
The last few years however have seen a huge change to women’s snooker with backing from sponsors like LITEtask and Eden but the change of structure too, which has been a real boost.
I’ve been really fortunate this season to have the backing of Billiards Boutique, and this sort of sponsorship really boosts the circuit and allows more players to compete.
The circuit is seeing new faces at every tournament, and more tournaments abroad which is increasing the standard and giving the game more appeal. I was very impressed in Singapore by the standard of some of the younger Thai players especially.
How much encouragement for the future does it give you to see Reanne Evans winning matches on the Main Tour and Ng On Yee playing in big arenas at the World Games and in Hong Kong recently?
Seeing Reanne and On Yee increasing the profile of the women’s game is a real boost and it gets more girls playing – we need more of this to raise the publicity of women’s snooker and encourage girls to take up the game.
There’s still a standard gap between the men’s and women’s circuits and this gap needs to be broken down so the women’s game can attract more sponsors and increase the profile of the women’s game – and there’s no reason the standard should be any lower, it’s just down to getting more girls playing from grassroots level.
Looking back at this year’s World Women’s Championship in Singapore in March, how memorable was the week and would you like to see more tournaments held in Asia?
Singapore was a fantastic experience. To be able to play the game you love on the other side of the world, meeting new players in a new environment, it was great. It was clear that there’s some huge talent across other parts of the world and there’s no reason why the women’s game should be so restricted to UK tournaments. More tournaments in Asia will boost the profile of the women’s game and help increase the standard too.
For many years Reanne Evans dominated the women’s tour and of course she is still the number one ranked player, but in Ng On Yee she seems to have a real contender now. How good is that rivalry for women’s snooker?
Women’s snooker, and any sport, needs that rivalry to increase standards and push players to strive to be the best. Everyone wants to be challenged and it was clear in Singapore there are some real contenders pushing forward in the women’s game, which is great to see.
Earlier this year we saw Chloe White win her first under-21s event at the Eden Masters in Derby. You know her well and must have been pleased to see her win that event?
Chloe plays at the same club as me and so it was great to see her win. I’ve seen her progress really well over the last few years. Her game has rapidly improved and she’s proved she’s a real contender to pick up junior titles. It’s great to see more junior players on the circuit and their commitment is fantastic.
Finally, away from the baize there have also been exciting developments for you as you have taken up a new job. Tell us a little bit about that…
I changed jobs in the summer and now work for Heathrow Airport as a town planner in the Expansion team. My role is to help get planning consent for the new runway and associated expansion project. It’s a £17 billion project and also includes realigning the M25, so it’s a very exciting project to be working on but also very challenging.
It’s a fine balance between work and managing to find the time to practice, but as long as I can continue to compete, especially when many of the girls play full time, then I’ll enjoy playing on the circuit. At least if there are more tournaments abroad I can go straight from work to the plane!
Good luck to Suzie and the rest of the field in action this weekend at the LITEtask UK Women’s Championship. View the draw here.