PREVIEW | Female Stars Set For Sheffield

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David Hendon looks ahead to matches involving the quintet of women in the field at the upcoming Cazoo World Championship qualifying rounds. 

For the first time in 31 years there will be five female players competing in the Cazoo World Championship as new World Women’s Champion Baipat Siripaporn joins World Snooker Tour members Reanne Evans, Ng On Yee, Mink Nutcharut and Rebecca Kenna in the qualifiers next week.

Four of the five women have drawn players who have already played at the Crucible. Evans takes on 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, Kenna meets Alfie Burden, a qualifier in 1998, while Nucharut tackles fellow Thai Dechawat Poomjaeng, who achieved near-cult hero status when he beat Stephen Maguire in the first round in 2013. On Yee faces Michael Holt, an eight-time qualifier for the final stages.

Baipat’s reward for her capture of the world title last month is a meeting with Irishman Aaron Hill, becoming the 11th woman to have competed in the World Championship.

This will be an exciting and possibly daunting introduction to the professional game as she lines up alongside established players and invited amateurs as they all attempt to reach the hallowed Crucible.

Although she is no longer world champion, Evans remains the most recognisable flag bearer for women’s snooker. She has won 12 world titles on the WWS circuit and in 2017 memorably defeated Finland’s Robin Hull in the first round of qualifying before losing 10-6 to Lee Walker.

In 2015, she had run Doherty to 10-8 in the qualifiers and their rematch is fascinating given that the Irish legend has slipped down the rankings since.

Evans has found life on the World Snooker Tour tough since rejoining it at the start of last season, but she has competed well at times with some big names, including Mark Allen at the 2021 British Open and Mark Selby at this season’s Northern Ireland Open.

A best of 19 in theory offers a better chance to quell the nerves and start to play the sort of snooker of which she is capable. Even a bad start can be remedied, but she is coming up against someone with all the experience in the world when it comes to multi-session matches.

Doherty remains a tough and clever opponent, even if he is not consistently producing the level of snooker he was renowned for in his heyday. But like everyone else, he is under pressure at the qualifiers. The veteran Dubliner would dearly love to walk out at the Crucible again as a player rather than pundit.

It’s still a learning curve for the female tour players and clearly qualification is a very difficult ask, but their participation is a reminder that there is no men’s World Championship. In fact, women have been playing in snooker’s premier event since the professional ranks went open in the 1991/92 season.

Kelly Fisher made a century in a qualifying match against Ryan Day in 2002. Her namesake Allison won six matches in the four years she entered.

Like everyone else in the 2023 championship, Evans, On Yee, Nutcharut, Kenna and Baipat will be feeling a mix of nerves and excitement as well as determination to give a good account of themselves – and maybe spring an upset or two.

Tickets for the qualifying rounds are on sale for just £10 per day – for details click here.

Article by World Snooker Tour.