This weekend sees the return of the UK Women’s Championship and with the players entered and the draws made, below we look ahead to what promises to be a fantastic weekend of snooker at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds.
First held in 1982, the UK Women’s Championship returns this weekend for its 33rd staging, with only the World Championship having been held more frequently during the 40-year history of the World Women’s Snooker Tour.
With a bumper field of 36 players – representing our largest entry outside of the World Championship in over 21 years – the appetite for women’s snooker has not been diminished by the impact of the pandemic which forced the suspension of the circuit last March.
Heading the draw this year will of course be defending champion and current world number one Reanne Evans, who will be looking to capture the title for what would be a record-extending tenth time.
Potentially awaiting her in the final could be second seed Rebecca Kenna, a finalist at the event in 2018 who will be looking to follow up her success at the recent EPSB English Women’s Open less than a month ago.
With the pair seeded straight through to the last 16 knockout rounds, the remaining 34 players – including six debutants – have been divided into seven round robin groups, with the top two players from each set to complete the last 16 draw on Saturday evening.
Welsh number one Laura Evans makes her return to the circuit for the first time since her run to the last eight of the 2019 Eden Masters as she looks to improve upon a brace of UK semi-finals in 2016 and 2019.
Among those standing in her way will be the experienced Michelle Brown – who made her Tour debut in this event back in 1988 – and Guernsey’s Kate Le Gallez, who will compete in her third ranking event.
The group is completed by Yo Lun Yen of Taiwan and Scottish youngster Sophie Nix, who will both be making their Tour debuts this weekend.
On paper arguably one of the toughest groups to predict, Group B is headlined by Germany’s Diana Schuler, who has qualified for the knockout rounds on each of her three previous appearances in the competition.
She will be joined by Northern Ireland’s Chucky Preston, who defeated Schuler en route to the quarter-finals of her maiden WWS competition at the 2019 Eden Masters, as well as two-time Under-21 competition winner Chloe White and Leeds-based regular Elizabeth Black.
One to watch could be debutant Jamie Hunter, who hit a top break of 52 at the recent English Women’s Open, ultimately losing 3-2 to eventual champion Rebecca Kenna in the semi-finals.
As the only former champion in the draw other than Reanne Evans, 2012 winner Maria Catalano will be hoping to go one better than her final run in 2019 as she returns to the Northern Snooker Centre this weekend.
Sharing a group with our former world number one are youngsters Shannon Metcalf and Laura Killington, as well as current world number 41 Michelle Baker.
Rounding off the group is Mandy Booth, who reached the last eight at the recent English Women’s Open and will be targeting a place in the knockout rounds on her full Tour debut.
Wakefield’s Steph Daughtery returns to the Northern Snooker Centre with the aim of reaching her first UK Championship quarter-final, having lost out at the last 16 stage on each of her five previous appearances in the competition to date.
A two-time winner of the Under-21 side-tournament, Daughtery enjoyed an impressive run to the semi-finals of the recent English Women’s Open, narrowly missing out on a place in the final.
Hoping to stop her will be Jan Hughes – winner of the Seniors side-tournament in 2019, as well as Annamaria Wilkins and debutant Cath Bailey.
The group is completed by Russia’s Mariia Shevchenko, who will be looking to improve upon her last 16 run on debut back in 2019.
The only four-player group in the draw, the section is headed by 19th ranked Connie Stephens, who reached the last 16 stage of the event in both 2018 and 2019.
She is joined by recent English Women’s Open runner-up Mary Talbot-Deegan – competing in her first WWS tournament in 19 years – as well as two-time ranking event quarter-finalist Aimee Benn and tour debutant Annette Bates.
Our penultimate group this weekend sees Jackie Ellis take on players including the evergreen Jenny Poulter, who incredibly competed in the very first UK Championship back some 39 years ago.
The pair join 15-year-old Zoe Killington – who qualified for the knockout rounds for the first time at a ranking event at the 2019 UK Championship, Wales-based Louise Cothier and Rochdale’s Annette Lord in what could be one of the most open groups in the draw.
Completing the draw in the final group will be two-time ranking event semi-finalist Emma Parker, who reached the last eight of the UK Championship for the first time in 2019.
She will face a group of players who have all joined the circuit within the past two years, including Harriet Haynes, who will be targeting a maiden ranking quarter-final, as well as compatriots Emma Brown, Laura Gillett and Nat Howard.
Alongside the draws for the main competition are the knockout rounds of both the Under-21 and Seniors tournaments.
With 2019 champion Emma Parker no longer eligible to compete having turned 21 during the pandemic, there will be a new winner in the Under-21 competition. Top seed Steph Daughtery will be aiming to claim the title for what would be the third time and first since 2016, with Shannon Metcalf, Aimee Benn and Chloe White among a seven-player field with eyes on the prize.
The draw for the Seniors meanwhile includes an impressive 13 entries, including top seeds Jan Hughes and Jenny Poulter, who most recently contested the final of the 2019 Eden Masters.
The action gets underway this Saturday at 9:30am with the latest match results and standings available via WPBSA SnookerScores throughout the weekend.