Victory for Ng On Yee at The Winchester Open earlier this month brought the curtain down on a memorable season of snooker on the World Women’s Snooker (WWS) Tour and below we reflect upon some of the top stories from the past nine months.
Following an extended period without competition because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021/22 campaign has been the most open for many a year, with three different winners crowned from five ranking tournaments held, including a new world champion for the first time in seven years.
But the news was not just limited to the big names, with a diverse group of players from across the ranking list having played their part in a wonderful season of women’s snooker. Below we pick out just a few of the key stories from the season…
Thailand’s Nutcharut Wongharuthai delivered on her long-held promise as she secured a momentous victory at the World Women’s Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
Having claimed her second ranking event title at the British Open just a month earlier, the 22-year-old repeated the feat at the big one, as she survived black ball deciders against both Ng On Yee and most dramatically Wendy Jans in the final to lift The Mandy Fisher Trophy for the first time.
From her impressive debut five years earlier at the 2017 World Championship, Wongharuthai quickly marked herself out as a credible challenger to dominant duo Reanne Evans and Ng. She claimed her maiden ranking title in Australia shortly before the pandemic and since her return in January has proven that she has lost none of her ability during the intervening months.
Although she could not finish the season by completing a hat-trick of victories at The Winchester Open, she was able to compile a WWS career-best break of 126 during the semi-finals, a score bettered by only five players in Tour history.
Despite seeing their 17-year stranglehold upon the World Championship ended by Wongharuthai in February, it was nevertheless a season otherwise dominated by long-time top two Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee.
While Evans won just one ranking title – her record-extending 10th UK Championship crown – her campaign would still be the envy of almost all players on the circuit, having reached a further two finals, both of which she lost in a deciding-frame. With more ranking points earned than any other player during the season, she remains the world number one and player to beat.
Likewise for Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee, with two titles won from three played it was another strong campaign, which could have been perfect but for her narrow defeat to Wongharuthai in Sheffield.
With her career total now up to 17, just five behind fifth placed Stacey Hillyard on the all-time list, the 31-year-old continues to build an impressive legacy within the sport.
The return of the WWS Tour this season has seen entry numbers reach a record high for the past 20 years with 166 players now included on the ranking list.
Of those to have joined the circuit during the past nine months, England’s Jamie Hunter has enjoyed an impressive debut campaign – highlighted by her run to the semi-finals of the World Championship – to finish ranked in 14th position.
The Tour has also seen an impressive number of players return to the Tour following time away from the sport, most notably Mary Talbot-Deegan and Tessa Davidson, who have both finished the campaign ranked within the top 30 following their first appearances in 19 and 23 years respectively. Joined by other familiar faces including Jasmine Bolsover, Marianne Williams, Michelle Brown, Anja Vandenbussche and more, the Tour continues to provide a platform for all players, whether competing in their first tournament or their 50th!
Notwithstanding the continued uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic upon international travel in particular, the circuit has also continued to attract entries from outside of the UK, with players from 17 countries represented at events this season.
Among these countries include Poland, with Izabela Łącka, Ewelina Pislewska and Dalia Alska all having become Tour regulars throughout the campaign, as well as Japan with the talented Miina Tani having reached the last 16 stage of both the Eden Women’s Masters and World Championship competitions.
As well as her impressive return to the main competitions, England’s Tessa Davidson has also enjoyed a flawless start to Seniors competition by claiming the over-40s titles at each of her first three tournaments to date.
Highlighted by her triumph at the 2022 World Women’s Seniors Championship in Sheffield, the season has seen her claim top spot at the end of season Seniors rankings ahead of previous number one Jenny Poulter.
There were also victories at the Seniors competitions for Michelle Brown and Mary Talbot-Deegan, the latter securing Talbot-Deegan the unique distinction of being the first player to have won titles at Under-21, Seniors and Challenge Cup level throughout the course of her Tour career.
It was a season of two halves in the Under-21 category as England’s Steph Daughtery began the season by claiming a hat-trick of junior titles, before 19-year-old Ploychompoo Laokiatphong claimed the final two, including her second world title in February.
Alongside their junior exploits, both players also broke new ground within the main ranking list as Daughtery rose to a career-high position of number nine in January, while Laokiatphong finished the season in seventh position having reached her third career ranking event semi-final in Leicester.
As well as new faces from within the UK including Chloe Payne and Sophie Nix, the junior circuit also welcomed new players from further afield including Lilly Meldrum from Australia, who aged just 13 reached the final of the World Women’s Under-21 Championship on her debut to serve notice of her undoubted potential.
The start of the season saw the World Women’s Snooker Tour celebrate its 40th anniversary in style as several icons of the sport returned to congratulate both the Tour and in particular its founder Mandy Fisher on providing four decades of competition for women players from around the world.
It was in recognition of Fisher’s contribution that at the UK Championship it was announced that the perpetual World Championship trophy would be renamed The Mandy Fisher Trophy in her honour, with the 1984 world champion presented with the trophy prior to the start of play.
Alongside the key storylines of the season, there were also several other notable stories including…
And of course, there were many more!
World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has supported the Tour throughout the season and looks forward to seeing everyone again later this year for what is set to be another season to remember.
Further information about the latest calendar of events will be published over the coming weeks.