Reanne Evans has become the first woman to qualify for the final stages of a world ranking tournament by beating Thepchaiya Un Nooh 5-4 in the first round of the Wuxi Classic in Gloucester today.
This was a very good win. The Thai is a former world amateur champion and led 3-0 before Evans made a 52 clearance in the fourth frame that turned the match.
Her reward is a meeting with Neil Robertson, the world no.2, who in his 5-0 victory over Mohammed Khairy became the 18th player to compile more than one competitive maximum break. It was the 98th 147 in snooker history.
Women’s snooker is in desperate need of a boost. Entry levels have fallen in the past couple of years and money is distinctly tight – Evans won just £450 for capturing her ninth world title last month.
Allison Fisher is widely regarded as the best female player there ever was. She beat a few top male stars in her time – Mike Hallett, Neal Foulds and Tony Drago – in invitation tournaments but made little impact on the pro ranks in the days when there were 700 professionals.
Evans herself was on the tour a couple of years ago but did not win a match. She seemed to be stuck in a kind of snooker limbo: too good for the women but not good enough for the men.
Her win today is significant. It is a huge confidence boost not just to Evans herself but to women and girls also aspiring to play top level snooker.
It’s already been an incident packed start to the new season as the new ‘flat’ system comes into play.
World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan withdrew before play began due to a family bereavement. World no.1 Mark Selby played but lost, 5-3 to Andrew Pagett.
Most other big names have – so far – been successful, although defending Wuxi Classic champion Ricky Walden lost a 4-1 lead over Pankaj Advani before scrambling home 5-4 on the final black.
Barry Hearn was right to state on Twitter that the new format has already created plenty of interest but he knows better than most that the true test of the system will be the effect it has on viewing figures and, to a lesser extent, ticket sales (although these aren’t great in China anyway).
As I write this Ding Junhui – Wuxi’s hometown hero – is 2-1 down to Aditya Mehta. If he fails to qualify it will be a disaster for the tournament.
Finally, a word for Steve Davis. Starting his 36th – 36th! – season as a professional, he made a break of 131 in beating James Cahill 5-2.