World Championship 2021 – Ronnie O’Sullivan scares fans with video: ‘I’m not retiring from snooker’
“Everyone can chill out and calm down.” Ronnie O’Sullivan had fans sweating over his future when he made what appeared to be a sudden announcement on social media on Tuesday. Thankfully, the six-time world champion was simply launching a new brand partnership, but he took the opportunity to reassure fans that he is not retiring.
Ronnie O’Sullivan had fans very concerned he was poised to retire on Tuesday as he made an announcement on his Facebook page.
In teeing up the live stream, the 45-year-old was pictured waving to the fans, which appeared to concern many that he may be about to make a significant decision.
However, the six-time world champion was simply confirming his brand partnership with Rokit, and taking a pretty random Q&A to help make it known.
“I’m taking retirement from my name,” he explained in the live stream on his Facebook page. “So it’s not Ronnie O’Sullivan, it’s Ronnie the Rocket.
Not snooker, I’m not retiring from snooker, everyone can chill out and calm down. Take it easy. We are still here. Potting some balls.
Asked who he would choose if he was allowed to select any four guests for a dinner party, O’Sullivan was typically unpredictable.
Stephen Fry, Mike Tyson, Eminem and Usain Bolt were his picks, if you want to know, and Eurosport would be very keen to acquire the rights to it.
O’Sullivan was then asked if it was hard being him, given the level of celebrity he has within the sport and beyond.
“Only because I over-think things,” he said. “It’s not like Michael Jackson or David Beckham where you can’t go anywhere.
“I’m known by the snooker fans, but I don’t have a following that maybe a footballer would have, so it is not that bad. So I’m fine with the life I’ve been dealt.”
Finally, O’Sullivan revealed his biggest goal at the moment was running a sub-three-hour marathon.
“It’s not crazy, it’s achievable,” he said. “I’ve just got to find the time to train and recover. It’s a lot of dedication and it is highly unlikely, but it is possible.“
Only that Eurosport got it wrong… it’s not Ronnie the Rocket, it’s Ronnie The ROKIT
Covid passport trials poised to start in weeks at FA Cup Final and World Snooker
The idea of a Covid passport requiring people to show certification that they have either tested negative or been vaccinated when entering a public space has proved controversial
A much-touted and controversial Covid passport scheme is poised to be trialled at large-scale sporting events within weeks.
But a backlash to the plans has seen more than 70 MPs sign a letter opposing the introduction of the “discriminatory” scheme.
Pilot schemes to safely open up large events with tighter-packed crowds are due from mid-April.
Among the events lined up for the pilot are the World Snooker Championship and FA Cup final, with the FA Cup semi-final, League Cup final and Brit Awards also said to be on the list.
This week a Tory minister suggested these trials will be combined with plans to trial “Covid certification checks” – more details of which are expected to be announced on Monday.
Certification refers to showing you’ve had either a test, a vaccine or both – but Boris Johnson yesterday put the emphasis on testing rather than vaccines.
So the trials could mean anybody going to the events is asked for a Covid test to gain entry as well as a further test after attendance.
This is so that any spread of the disease can be monitored. Government scientists are closely involved in designing pilots for the scheme.
The events will run from April until May and in the early stages attendees will need a negative Covid test to gain entry, according to The Daily Telegraph.
For the later months, officials reportedly want to make use of an updated NHS app to show whether a person has been given the vaccine, tested negative or has antibodies.
But there has been a backlash to the plans.
More than 70 Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs have pledged to campaign against the “divisive and discriminatory use” of inoculation certificates to “deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.
They include 41 Tories – potentially jeopardising the Prime Minister’s 80-seat Commons majority.
A government source told the Telegraph there was still time for changes to the pilot plan to be made before announcements from Mr Johnson are made on Monday.
The study on sports matches – an Events Research Programme – will look at holding mass events with less social distancing than expected under the current roadmap.
The roadmap says Step 3, from May 17 at the earliest, will allow mass events but only at 50% capacity, 1,000 people indoors or 4,000 people outdoors, whichever is smallest. Stadiums like Wembley are allowed up to 10,000 people.
But this month the government will begin separate pilots of mass events to see if rules can be eased further.
These will include in the Crucible theatre for the snooker championship, which starts in mid-April, and at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final on May 15.
If that is successful ministers will stuff “as many people as we can” into Wembley again for a pencilled-in Euros final in July, Mr Dowden told The Sun.
Mr Dowden said earlier this week: “[Some]thing that we are considering is a Covid certification, and we will be testing whether we can use Covid certification to help facilitate the return of sports.”
It comes after Boris Johnson suggested that Brits will ‘definitely’ need vaccine passports of some kind to take foreign holidays.
It’s understood the Prime Minister will outline the first stages of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel on Monday.
But it is claimed there could be as few as 12 nations on the “green” list from May 17, the earliest date foreign holidays can resume.
He is also expected to spell out a direction for domestic “certification” which could, eventually, lead to Brits being asked to show their vaccine or testing status to enter a venue like a pub.
I don’t understand the “controversial” bit here. Is it “controversial” that driving on the left is mandatory in the UK? No because it’s a matter of safety for all. Similarly, a number of vaccines are mandatory: dyphteria, tuberculosis, tetanus and more. Those vaccines are mandatory, because the risks associated with the illnesses are high. Tuberculosis was the first “killer” of young men in Western Europe less than 100 years ago. It’s almost disappeared. I read yesterday in the press that over 1 million Brits were suffering from “long covid”, which is very crippling. It seems to affect as much as 1 in 7 survivors. IMO, just as for the other illnesses cited above, covid vaccine should be mandatory, and event organisers as well as pubs and restaurants owners should be allowed to ask to see proof of it before allowing people in. Customers should be informed of the plces policy as well. Endangering others is not a “right” and nobody should have the “freedom” to do it, no more they have a freedom to drive on the right in the UK, or on the left in mainland Europe. Some people don’t believe in the risks, and there has been a lot of disinformation, but not believing in the risks doesn’t nullify the said risks. If those people were only endangering themselves, I wouldn’t care so much, but they do endanger others as well, whether they believe it or not, and those others have a right to be kept safe.
Two months after testing positive for Covid-19, Anthony Hamilton is still feeling the effects but is back in action this weekend as he looks to get his season back on track.
Hamilton can count himself especially unlucky to contract the virus after spending months shielding and barely leaving the house due to having asthma therefore increasing the risk of Covid.
The Sheriff of Pottingham famously qualified for the World Championship over the summer but decided competing wasn’t worth the risk and pulled out, a decision which he did not take lightly as he turned down a first visit to the Crucible since 2008.
Having returned to competition, the 49-year-old was forced to withdraw from the UK Championship in November after testing positive for Covid-19.
Two months later and he is still not back to 100 per cent, admitting that even when playing again in December, he was struggling to stand by the end of a best of seven match.
‘I still have got the lingering effects, like a lot of people have,’ Hamilton told Metro.co.uk. ‘Fatigue and breathlessness. I’m better than I was, it’s getting gradually better, but I’ve been knocked for six a bit.
‘About two months since I had it now. I played a match just before Christmas, it was only a best of seven, but I definitely flagged towards the end, I could almost not stand up.
‘I was like, “Jesus, this is more serious than I thought it was.” It’s only a short drive back from Milton Keynes but it felt like driving back from Glasgow.’
The match Anthony is referencing is a 4-3 loss to Eden Sharav in the Scottish Open, which proved to him how hard the virus had hit him.
‘I felt good up to 2-2, but then I was just hanging on,’ Hamilton explained.
‘Before Covid I was getting really fit, it’s weird for me, but I was feeling quite good. I was doing 80 miles a week on the exercise bike, I felt great.
‘But the contrast from then to now is night and day, it’s like I didn’t do anything for those six months, it’s been wiped out.
‘I used to feel like this in my 30s when I was in the pub all the time, I’m too old for that now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for the pub but I don’t want to go to work feeling s**t. It’s lose lose.
‘I still think I’ve been lucky, it’s just annoying that it gets in the way of every day life, but that’s hardly a hardship compared to some people. Yeah, I feel like crap, but you have to have a word with yourself, it could be a lot worse.’
It’s been a tough year for everyone and Hamilton is keeping a smile on his face despite everything, feeling that a 30-year professional snooker career helps you deal with disappointment.
‘I’ve definitely had enough of all this, we all have,’ Anthony said of the pandemic. ‘But I’m half used to feeling frustrated and depressed from being a snooker player for 30 years.’
The Sheriff feels that there are people to blame for the state the country is in right now, and has some strong words for the Government and how they have handled the crisis.
‘It’s unfortunate that we’re living in the country that’s dealt with it the worst in the world,’ he said. ‘Nothing makes any sense, people are dying, it’s frustrating that we’ve let fops run the country.
‘We’ve let the upper class take over politics and now we’re paying for it. Obviously America have just had the worst character in the history of politics and we’ve probably got the second worst, you’re probably looking at Pol Pot for number three!’
One positive of having caught the virus for Hamilton is not having to be quite as intensely strict about shielding as he was for much of 2020.
The Sheriff was barely leaving his home before, washing anything and everything he touched and he is now allowing himself to be slightly more relaxed after a positive test.
‘I’m not shielding like I was before, not quite so military about cleaning everything,’ he explained. ‘Obviously the positive about having it is I should be safe for a while.
‘I’ve let my brain chill out for a while and not clean every door handle I’ve touched, that’s a relief.
‘It was taking me 40 minutes or so to clean the table before I started practice, even though no one was really on it. The cloth, cushions, rails, balls, it was a ball ache. So now I’ve just been getting my cue out and playing, which is nice.’
Helping Hamilton through this trickiest of years is a positive attitude he forced himself to adopt since he turned 40-years-old.
There is nothing complicated to the plan, Anthony just chooses to look on the bright side of things when it comes to snooker, which he feels anyone can replicate.
The former German Masters champion knows that the unwavering positivity doesn’t necessarily come naturally to him, so he holds a cliched image of an ultra-cheery American in his mind for him to take on while at the table.
‘The most underused part of coaching in snooker is the mental side, everyone thinks about the cue action and stuff, but I’ve realised myself in the last eight or nine years, I’ve started skinning the cat in a different way,’ Anthony said.
‘I can’t possibly play good snooker anymore, but I can make up the deficit with better thought patterns and positivity.
‘Jesus Christ, I can’t believe how much you can get out of just doing the right things mentally. I just came up with it myself, I took things on board from years ago when I was coached by Terry Griffiths, but it’s mainly doing the hard work.
‘People don’t realise how hard it is to do the right things when things aren’t going your way, it’s not human nature to think positive when things are negative all the time, but that’s the only way to be if you want to get out of the bad situation.
‘I’ve taught myself to do the right things while I’m out there in the match, there is literally no point in being disappointed during the match because that’s not going to get me a result.
‘I can be as disappointed as I want in the car on my way home, but while I’m out there, stay positive, even if I’m getting pumped, you never know. Honestly, it didn’t take long for matches to start turning my way.
‘I wish I’d done this when I was a good player. If I’d done that in my 20s and 30s, before I’d got injured, I think I’d be retired on a beach somewhere now.
‘It’s no more complicated than just deciding to be positive.I equate it to being American, everything’s great all the time, I just tell myself to be American.
‘I’ve just missed the black off the spot, don’t worry everything’s great, what’s next? It’s gone. It works and it works immediately.’
Hamilton has been struggling with neck problems for years, which means he cannot produce the snooker he did in the past, but his American alter-ego keeps him very competitive.
‘The more you do it the more it works,’ he said. ‘Before you know it you’ve turned four or five matches around in a year that you never would have won in a million years.
‘It makes you feel invincible. Even if you get beat you can feel happy because you know there’s nothing more you could have done. It’s when you come away and you know you’ve let your head drop in the middle of a match, then you drive home and you hate yourself because you know you could have given a bit more.
‘It’s the same as practicing the physical part of the game, you have to keep doing it all the time because it’s unnatural to be positive all the time, especially someone who’s realistic and cynical.
‘I just take on the American persona while I’m playing, everything’s great, then on the way home, go back to British and call myself a s**t c**t then. It works immediately, I love it.’
The four-time World Championship quarter-finalist has no intention of hanging his cue up any time soon and is still ranked #46 in the world, despite his troubles with Covid over the last 12 months.
However, he is eyeing up a new string to add to his bow, in the commentary box.
The Sheriff feels some snooker commentators can be too critical and not analytical enough, and he is keen to bring his own style to the gig.
‘Hopefully in the future I’m going to be commentating,’ he said. ‘I was supposed to do some commentary before Covid for Eurosport, so hopefully it will happen again.
‘Some of the commentators have lost all empathy, it’s like everyone has to play at Judd Trump’s level all the time, but no, woah, woah, woah, it’s not that easy. You know it’s not that easy!
‘I’m hopefully going to bring a bit more empathy. If someone is blatantly not putting it in then slag them off, but no one needs to be slagged off for trying their best.’
Hamilton wants to see more analysis of technique and the technical side of the game, which he feels is missing, especially on BBC coverage of the sport.
‘I prefer Eurosport, it’s the home of snooker now, really,’ he said. ‘I watch some American sport, because I’m interested, and they don’t commentate for people like me, they commentate for people that have been watching the sport since they were kids.
‘It’s my job to catch up with the sport, not for them to dumb it down for me. That’s why I like Eurosport, they go a bit more in depth, but I still think some people are being patronised.
‘[Alan] McManus is really good, sometimes he’ll explain something and I’ll be applauding, thinking, “thank God, someone’s finally explained it.”
‘I saw a BBC pundit about three years back at the UK Championship and he said to me: “Alright Ant? I didn’t know you were still playing.”
‘I’d made it to the semi-finals of the European Masters a few weeks before, a full ranking tournament. That’s the BBC for you, it’s lazy.’
Hamilton heads to the WST Pro Series on Sunday looking for his first win of the season and, although he knows Covid and his neck could both hamper him over a long day of seven matches, he is looking forward to competing again.
‘We’ll see how I do physically because it’s a long day,’ he said. ‘It’ll be nice to play, it’s always nice to play snooker,
‘Best of three is a bit weird, we’ll see how it goes, but I’m well up for it. I’m always up for it, I’m the archetypal pro.
‘Play some snooker, nick a bit of dough, hopefully qualify, but if not, I’ll be trying my best.
‘Seven matches, win or lose, I’ve just been playing a few frames in practice, so to play a few frames is great, to play a few matches back-to-back is gold dust!’
Anthony as always not afraid to tell the truth. I can’t understand why some dislike the guy. He’s a great person.
Coming to the “answers on twitter” thing I picked this…
So much for the usual Ronnie bashing attempt.
The other player who has been in the news over the last days is if course Yan Bingtao.
YAN Bingtao has risen from a poor working-class background and playing to support his cancer-stricken mother to become China’s latest sporting prodigy.
The 20-year-old snooker star stunned four-time world champion John Higgins 10-8 to claim the prestigious Masters title last Sunday at England’s Milton Keynes, becoming the tournament’s youngest winner in 26 years. It was world number 11 Yan’s first major title and he is just a year older than Ronnie O’Sullivan was in 1995 when he won the Masters at 19, also beating Higgins.
“I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t win at least one or two world titles,” O’Sullivan, a six-time world champion, said.
Nicknamed “The Chinese Tiger,” Yan’s roaring triumph in his Masters debut is the culmination of a long struggle which at times seemed destined to end in a heart-breaking whimper.
He was born in Zibo, in China’s eastern province of Shandong, on February 16, 2000 and his first taste of holding a cue was on a rickety outdoor billiards table when he was 7 years old.
“I remember that it was uneven, there were leaves in the corners and the white ball went in a strange way,” the state-run People’s Daily quoted him as saying last year.
But Yan had talent and hoping that his boy had a future in the sport, his father Yan Dong quit his job at a pharmaceutical factory.
Against the advice of friends and family, the pair left home and Yan quit school aged 8 or 9 so they could pursue his snooker dreams in Beijing.
“To save money my father and I rented a room in the suburbs with just a bed and desk, costing 280 yuan (US$45) a month,” Yan said.
They could not afford heating and it was so cold that they wore their coats indoors, Yan once told Chinese media.
Father and son struggled to make ends meet and they admitted defeat, returning home to Zibo.
According to some accounts, the family sold most of their possessions to fund Yan’s career.
In 2013 they were plunged into crisis when Yan’s mother, the family bread-winner, was diagnosed with rectal cancer and needed an operation.
Earning the money to fund his mother’s recovery motivated him to enter more and more tournaments.
‘Never give up’
At 13, with his reputation on the rise, Yan began competing as a wildcard at professional events.
A year later, in 2014, Yan became the youngest winner of the World Amateur Snooker Championship.
He has been on a sharp upward trajectory since, turning professional in 2015, moving to England to further his career and capturing his first ranking title in Riga, Latvia in 2019.
Sheffield-based Yan collected 250,000 pounds (US$340,000) with his Masters triumph — the biggest payday of his fledgling career — and is widely praised for his dedication and hard work.
He is prime among a number of upcoming Chinese players and touted in domestic media as the successor to 33-year-old Ding Junhui, who has long been the country’s best player and an inspiration to Yan.
Many observers, including O’Sullivan, highlighted the new champion’s poise and maturity in storming back from behind to stun Higgins. At 45, the Scot is old enough to be Yan’s father.
In a touching denouement, Yan’s girlfriend translated his post-match interview into English on television.
But Yan’s thoughts inevitably soon turned to the two people who gambled everything for him.
“My mum and dad were watching on TV, they probably didn’t sleep tonight,” Yan said.
“They have always told me to never give up and to enjoy my life.”
No wonder that Yan is so mature and hard working. He deserves every success he gets.
The world ranking event will run from January 27 to 31 in Milton Keynes. Judd Trump is defending the title and he faces Mark Davis in the last 32.
BildBet is a brand associated with BetVictor in Germany. So this event still forms part of the BetVictor European Series, with a £150,000 bonus available for the player who tops the ranking list which runs across six events.
The event will be televised live by Eurosport. Details of other broadcasters will be announced soon.
No surprise for me here, especially after a tweet by Mark Williams last week, ironically stating “Hendry’s return going well then” or something along that line. Probably Hendry doesn’t want to embarrass himself and I wonder if he will play at all eventually.
Allan Taylor believes that the new WST Pro Series is an ideal opportunity for lower ranked players to gain experience and reach the later stages of a world ranking event.
World number 104 Taylor will be among the first players in action on Monday in Milton Keynes, in Group M alongside Joe Perry, Xiao Guodong, Matthew Stevens, Daniel Wells, Jak Jones, Rod Lawler and Haydon Pinhey. Click here for the group draw
Each of the eight players will play seven best-of-three frame matches in a round robin format over the day. The top two in the group will then go through to the second phase in March.
“The tournament is a godsend. I’m just relishing the chance to get my cue out of the box,” said Merseysider Taylor. “I’m lucky enough to have a practice unit I can use in lockdown. But I’m playing on my own, so just to compete against other humans will be a relief!
“In best-of-three matches, anyone can beat anyone. It’s a great chance for the lower ranked players to pit themselves against the top guys. At the least you get seven matches under your belt, which is important after the Christmas break when we’re all a bit rusty.
“It’s hard to know how many matches you’ll need to win to get into the top two, but there is sure to be some drama towards the end of the day. And if you achieve that it’s £3,000 or £4,000, plus another £1,000 guarantee in the second phase. We all have mortgages to pay and we’d much rather be playing in event like this than having a month off.”
Taylor dropped off the pro tour in 2019 but regained his place by winning the 2020 Challenge Tour Play-offs. He has made an impressive start to this season, reaching the last 32 of three ranking events.
“I have beaten some good players, and got a lot out of the matches I have lost against the likes of Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Liang Wenbo,” added the 36-year-old. “I feel comfortable out there on the main stage. I just have to keep trying to play to a high standard and the results will come.”
MASTERS 2021 EXCLUSIVE: WHO DOES RONNIE O’SULLIVAN THINK WILL DOMINATE SNOOKER IN 2021?
Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he expects Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby to dominate snooker in 2021. The world champion feels there is a “massive gap” between the three leading table lights and the rest of the chasing pack due to consistency of technique, scoring power and desire to lift trophies.
Snooker is entering the era of the big three with Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby set to dominate the sport in 2021, according to world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Ahead of the 47th staging of the Masters involving the game’s top 16 players in Milton Keynes between January 10-17 – the first triple crown event of the year – O’Sullivan feels the green baize triple g-force are well clear of the chasing pack and perfectly placed to continue their trophy-winning exploits.
While O’Sullivan lifted a sixth world title at the Crucible last August, the rest of the potting pie in 2020 was snaffled up by a triumvirate with a real appetite for silver service.
Trump carried off a record six ranking events finishing his year with the World Grand Prix before Christmas, Robertson claimed three including a third UK Championship and Selby has started the 2020-21 season by picking up the European Masters and defending the Scottish Open.
Looking into the crystal snooker balls does not appear to bring a sense of overriding opportunity for the rest of the field.
“This is my prediction. I think the top three are playing to such a high standard, it will be one of those three that win the majority of the events,” said O’Sullivan, who begins his quest for an eighth Masters title against Ding Junhui on Wednesday 16 January.
“If there are 25 tournaments, I reckon 20 of them will go to them. Judd will win six, Neil will win five and Selby will win four. I just think it is that sort of level.
“Mark Allen might win one, Ding (Junhui) might win one, I might win one, someone will win the Shoot Out.
“I just think they are playing to such a high level and the players from 17 downwards in the rankings are all a bit hit and miss in comparison.”
Stuart Bingham was Masters champion last year, Stephen Maguire carried off the Tour Championship, Mark Allen won the Champion of Champions while Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel and Scott Donaldson were Championship League winners in 2020, but O’Sullivan feels trophy-winning chances are becoming thinner on the ground than the thinnest of snicks on the table.
The record 37-times ranking event winner edged Selby 17-16 in the World Championship semi-finals, but lost to his fierce rival 9-3 in the Scottish Open final.
He also suffered a 9-7 defeat to Trump in the Northern Ireland final before being flattened by the world number one 6-1 in the World Grand Prix last four last month.
Trump has remarkably lifted 20 ranking events in only nine years, leaving him only two behind Mark Williams in the all-time list with the Welshman’s 22 coming over a 24-year period.
Robertson and Selby are both on 19 titles with Robertson winning a trophy in the sport every year since 2006.
“There’s a massive gap between those three and maybe the number 18 in the world,” explained the world number three.
“I’ve played those three now and you don’t get a lot off of them, but you seem to get away with quite a bit against the lower-ranked players.
THERE IS A MASSIVE GAP NOW BETWEEN THEM AND EVERYBODY ELSE.
“Allen slipped in and won one, Kyren Wilson won one. There will always be that chance for a player to maybe catch one of them on their off day in a final or a semi-final, but it is difficult.”
I like the non-commital “someone will win the Shoot Out” … 😎
However despite the headline announcement, Hendry has not yet featured in the 2020/21 snooker season.
He was planning a return for the UK Championship but announced a delay to his comeback in November because he wanted to play in front of a crowd and not behind closed doors and stated at the time his game was not yet ready.
But the likelihood of fans returning to live snooker events by the time the Welsh Open starts is almost impossible with both England and Wales in lockdown until mid-February at least.
Returning in a slightly lower profile event is probably the best option for Stephen Hendry who, despite a rather poor record on the WSS tour so far, will face huge exprectations from his faithful fanbase. I’m very surprised that he is considering the Pro Series, but, on second thoughts, it’s actually a good idea. Lots of snooker in a short time span, against seven different opponents. Why not?
Today we look back on a 2019/20 World Women’s Snooker Tour season which has seen some fantastic snooker played across the globe by the world’s leading female players.
Of course, the end of the season has not concluded in the way that we would have liked with the unavoidable postponement of both the Festival and World Championship tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has nevertheless been an important 12 months for women’s snooker with tournament entries and media exposure continuing to increase.
Below we pick out a few of the highlights of the campaign and reflect on the action we have seen on the baize…
For the first time since the 2016/17 season we crowned three ranking event champions as regular champions Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee were joined in the winner’s circle for the first time by Nutcharut Wongharuthai.
Having been knocking on the door for the previous 18 months with four ranking event final appearances to her name, the Thai star memorably broke her title duck at the Australian Women’s Open with victory against On Yee in the final. The win saw her become only the sixth active player to have won a full-ranking event title and reach a new career-high ranking of third in the world where she remains today.
Either side of her triumph came further victories for England’s Reanne Evans, who added record-extending ninth and sixth triumphs at the UK Women’s Championship and Eden Women’s Masters tournaments respectively. The wins helped our reigning world champion extend an unbeaten run dating back to October 2018 and underline her status as the undisputed number one on tour.
It was however Ng On Yee who ended the winning streak of Evans at our most recent competition in Bruges back in February, a 4-2 final success marking her own return to form as she claimed her first title in over a year on the WWS circuit at the second Belgian Women’s Open.
Prior to the ranking event action though it was at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield where the new season was launched as women’s snooker returned to the home of snooker for the first time in 16 years.
The new Women’s Tour Championship saw our top four ranked players take to the baize at the venue which has hosted the professional World Championship since 1977, with only Reanne Evans have competed there previously.
With plenty of drama, tension and high quality snooker on display, the event represented a wonderful showcase of women’s snooker and demonstrated what our top players can do on the big stage.
The primary objective of WWS remains to provide opportunities for women and girls to pick up a cue and play snooker, providing the platform for players around the world, of any age or level of experience, to do so competitively.
We have been delighted this season to welcome several new players to the World Women’s Snooker Tour with no fewer than 35 women competing on the circuit for the first time.
With a total of 152 players from 29 countries currently ranked – an increase from just 38 players only six years ago – the tour is bigger than it has ever been during the current generation with more players joining all the time.
Among those to have joined the circuit, Northern Ireland’s Chucky Preston made an immediate impression at the Eden Masters by reaching the quarter-finals on her debut, while she was also one of a number of newcomers to reach the final of one of our side-tournaments during the campaign.
For the first time we welcomed players from Morocco as African Games champion Yousra Matine and Hind Bennani travelled to England to compete, with Hind reaching the Challenge Cup final at the UK Championship despite playing with a borrowed cue after her own did not arrive in time.
We have also been excited to welcome new players from Guernsey, Scotland, Russia, New Zealand and more.
It has been another season which has seen key movements across the world ranking list with a number of players reaching new career-high positions as they continue to develop their game.
As already mentioned above the most notable example is Thailand’s Nutcharut Wongharuthai who climbed to third position behind leading duo Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee at the top of the list.
Not far behind her and up to a new career-best of seventh is Emma Parker of England, who enjoyed another strong season by reaching her second ranking event semi-final at the Belgian Women’s Open, as well as winning Under-21 tournaments in Bruges and Leeds. She also achieved success at national level by claiming the English Women’s Championship for the first time.
Other notable players to have made significant gains at the top end of the rankings include former European champion Wendy Jans, while 17-year-old Ploychompoo Laokiatphong is up to 14th after she reached her first ranking event semi-finals at the UK Women’s Championship and Eden Masters tournaments.
It has been another season where together with our friends at the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and World Snooker Tour, we have continued to work to provide new opportunities for our stars to compete at the highest level.
Most significantly this season saw our reigning world champion Reanne Evans qualify to play at the professional Champion of Champions for the first time, where she took on former triple crown winner Shaun Murphy live on ITV4. There she was able to recover from 3-0 down to force a deciding frame, before Murphy was able to get over the line with a one-visit break.
Once again Evans was also invited together with Nutcharut Wongharuthai to compete at the Shoot Out professional ranking event, although both ultimately found themselves up against impressive performances from opponents Ian Burns and Thor Chuan Leong respectively in the first round.
Both Evans and Ng On Yee also competed at the prestigious SangSom 6-Red World Championship in Thailand last September, while our top three ranked players were also set to play at the Betfred World Championship qualifiers in Sheffield this month, prior to the postponement of the tournament until later this summer.
Whether as a fellow competitor, an organiser, as a colleague or as a friend, it is safe to say that most people involved with women’s snooker during the past 40 years have come across Mandy Fisher at some stage or another.
One of three well-known women to have played under the surname Fisher – bizarrely none of them are related – the highlight of Mandy’s career on the baize came back in 1984 as she achieved her dream of becoming the world women’s snooker champion.
But her legacy to the sport will be something far greater as she played an instrumental role in the creation of the organisation known today as World Women’s Snooker (WWS), which she still heads today as its president.
For over 40 years her life has been intertwined with a sport that has fascinated her since she was a girl. Today in the first of a two-part interview, we hear from Mandy about how she became involved with snooker and the events that led to the formation of WWS in 1981.
“When I left school, I used to go to a local BRSA (British Rail Staff Association) club with my parents because there were a lot of activities including pool and bar billiards,” said Fisher. “One day they were short on players in their team and they asked me to play pool and I won. I then won the local singles championship in my area which was a big achievement at the time. I was the only woman ever to be in it and the only woman ever to win it.
“After that my dad took me somewhere to buy me a cue as a present when I was 16 and that was the first time I had ever seen a snooker table.”
From the outset Mandy was intrigued by the game and as she learned more, inspired by the opportunity in front of her to be able to progress to the highest level in the sport.
“The guy who had the snooker room said he knew of a women’s association and I went along and I saw the standard,” said Fisher. “I thought that there is no other sport in the world where I felt like I could reach this level and become good at it, so I spoke to my parents about how much I loved it. They gave up their front room and moved into a bedroom so I could have a snooker table in there!
“I practiced hard and I went to the World Championship and it was brilliant. A girl called Lesley McIrath won it from Australia and they announced that the following year there was going to be £2,000 for the winner and £1,000 for the runner-up. That was a year’s wages for me so I had a chat with my parents and gave up work to concentrate on snooker. That following year I reached the final, won £1,000 and lost in the final to Vera Selby.”
After her breakthrough performance came a devastating blow however as it was announced in 1981 that there would not be any future women’s snooker tournaments.
Although she was still young and new to the game, Mandy was not prepared to see her snooker journey be cut short and set about forming the association that exists today as WWS. Although this did inevitably come at the expense of her playing career to some extent, she still has many fond memories of the time.
“I was so passionate about the sport and so with the help of a company called Grosser Jack from Windsor in Berkshire, we formed the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association,” explained Fisher. “I was the founder of the association and I liked administration, so I had a lot of fun.
“I carried on playing but when I was running things and trying to get it off the ground it was difficult. I was proud to be one of the first women ever to reach the last 128 of the English Amateur Championship.
“There was a lot of talent in the women’s game at that time, players like Alison Fisher, Kelly Fisher, Tessa Davidson, Stacey Hillyard and other such good players. Everyone inside the top eight could make century breaks, which was significant when you consider that at the time it was still such an achievement in the professional game.
“We used to have 40 entries even in those days coming up to Leeds to play at the Northern Snooker Centre, which was – and still is – one of the best clubs in the country. Jim Williamson welcomed us with open arms which a lot of clubs didn’t in those days, so that makes it extra special that the club continues to be a significant venue for us today.”
Of course, the 1980s were known in the UK as snooker’s first boom period and for the women’s game it was no different as Mandy recalls.
“It was an amazing time to be involved in the sport,” said Fisher. “I was quite good friends with Jimmy White and Tony Meo because in my town the man who first introduced me to snooker used to have them down to play on his table and then he would take them around all of the little snooker clubs in the area.
“I was lucky enough during the day to go in and play, then they used to go out and do an exhibition. I would go along and watch which was fantastic, He did that several times and got them lots of exhibitions, in the days when they were amateurs before it really took off in a big way.”
The dominant player during the 1980s was six-time world champion Steve Davis and Mandy has fond memories of crossing cues with him and his great rival Alex Higgins on the baize.
“I did a local exhibition with Steve and Alex at the Bushfield Sports Centre in Peterborough in front of 1,000 people and they bussed a load of people from March to support me which was wonderful,” recalled Fisher. “The atmosphere was incredible and I played three frames against Alex Higgins and I did sneak one off him (he probably allowed me to win it, I’m not quite sure!).
“But during the second best of three against Steve Davis I just produced. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline but I did play really well and I was 54 points ahead at 1-1 in the third frame before he cleared up with a 57 break. But it was fantastic and I have great memories of that evening, it will always stay with me.”
Although he was not a player, another man synonymous with snooker in the 1980s was of course Barry Hearn, then manager to Steve Davis and now chairman of the sport’s commercial arm World Snooker Tour.
“Barry was lovely and in the early days he gave us an awful lot of support which I am eternally grateful for,” explained Fisher. “My first experience with him was when he organised the intercity mixed pairs where I played with Steve Davis and another girl called Julie Islip played with Tony Meo.
“The event was on national television, screened directly before the FA Cup final to keep viewers on that channel. We did a pre-match interview the week before with Dickie Davis on World of Sport and then went down there to Southend to play on a match table in front of all the people which was amazing.
“Barry did all of that and he saw the potential in women’s snooker. He later secured sponsorship from Forte Hotels to sponsor us for three years, with events played across London. He also achieved the Mita world masters which injected huge sums of money into the women’s game. He really is the Midas man!
“Unfortunately for us Barry was becoming heavily involved with other activities such as Leyton Orient football club and boxing, typically making a success of everything that he does! But it was fantastic to be able to work with him during that period and to see what he is doing now with the professional game.”
More recently, women’s snooker has survived some challenging times before in 2015 agreement was reached with snooker’s world governing body the World Professional Snooker and Billiards Association (WPBSA) for World Women’s Snooker to become its subsidiary company. With the support of the WPBSA the World Women’s Snooker Tour has been able to expand like never before with international events held across the world and over 150 players now on the world ranking list, leaving Fisher optimistic for the future.
“It has been fantastic to have the WPBSA on board during the last few years,” continued Fisher. “They have been really enthusiastic about it and it has been great to host events outside of the UK in mainland Europe, Asia and the Oceania region of the past few years. In particular, last year’s World Women’s Championship in Thailand was one of the best tournaments that I have been involved in during the past 40 years.
“I firmly believe that the sky is the limit with women’s snooker. There is no physical reason why a woman cannot play snooker as good as a man. Certainly, Reanne Evans is capable of and has proved that she can play amongst the professional men. We are welcoming more new players all the time and I am confident that as we continue to grow and visit new territories, we will only continue to see players improve. I see a very bright future ahead for the women’s game.”
Thank you to Mandy for her time and we look forward to seeing her and everyone else back on Tour next season.
In honour of Women’s Snooker Day, Annette Lord looks at one of the game’s female pioneers who surprised many watching the classic Crucible matches in lockdown.
“Who’s the woman commentating on the BBC in 1982?” That was the question on many fans’ lips when the TV network launched its Crucible Classics last week, looking back at golden matches from yesteryear.
In fact, some messaged Snooker Chat searching for the answer after seeing Tony Knowles trouncing Steve Davis 10-1 and others took to social media with the query.
The answer is Vera Selby, a remarkable lady who is not only a multiple world champion in both snooker and billiards but was honoured for her services to both sports and also amazed everyone by playing regularly well into her 80s.
Selby was born in 1930 in Richmond, North Yorkshire, and first became aware of billiards aged six through watching her uncle play in the cellar of his home in Newcastle. This started a life-long love of cuesports, with Selby becoming women’s world billiards champion eight times between 1970 and 1978.
She was also one of the leading women’s snooker players of the 1970s, winning the national title four years in a row from 1972-75 and also regaining it in 1979.
But her success didn’t end there. Selby was crowned the first ever women’s world snooker champion when the inaugural tournament was held in 1976 and five years later captured the title again, entering the record books by becoming, at 51, the oldest female world champion in any sport.
That was 1981, and within two years Selby – who made a living as a lecturer in art, textiles and dress design at what was then Newcastle Polytechnic – had taken early retirement aged 53.
Selby was also becoming a voice on TV, as some of the Crucible Classics last week proved.
Some fans were astonished to hear Selby commentating, and there was also praise for the BBC for being “ahead of its time”.
“I had no idea there were women commentators back then,” said v3rng (@vernongiles1959), one of many to comment on Twitter.
“Vera Selby commentating for BBC at the Crucible in 1982. Snooker was way ahead of its time with a female commentator,” added Phil Gilman (@bookiemonster81), with Chris Schou Watts (@goatsebeast) saying: “Good on the BBC for getting women involved at the top level so early (seeing as snooker only really ‘started’ in the 70s).”
It was certainly a surprise to remember that snooker had a woman commentator in the early 1980s. But Selby was not the first female to commentate for the BBC on cuesports. Thelma Carpenter, also a champion in both billiards and snooker in the 1930s, commentated for billiards on BBC Radio. And Joyce Gardner, one of her rivals in both games whose once recorded a snooker break of 82, was also employed to commentate on radio. One of her appearances was at the 1946 World Snooker Championship, where she gave her thoughts on Joe Davis v Horace Lindrum for the fee of 6 guineas (£6.30).
Yes, there were female cueists in the 1930s. Alongside Gardner and Carpenter at the top of the game was Ruth Harrison, from County Durham, who won the Women’s Professional Snooker Championship – a national event – eight years running.
Back to Selby, who was given a lifetime achievement award for services to billiards in 2014 and was made an MBE for services to snooker and billiards in the 2016 Queen’s birthday honours.
She told the BBC’s Rob Walker: “It was wonderful. Prince Charles gave me it. He said ‘you don’t look like a snooker player.’ I replied, saying we weren’t all big butch male players and he laughed.”
Amazingly, Selby was still competing at the age of 86 and is now 90, enthusing about the benefits of playing for older people.
She said in 2016: “It guards against dementia and it’s a physical thing as well as being mental. You are not getting fresh air but you are walking round and round the table.”
What a remarkable woman. Vera Selby, we salute you!
I had the pleasure to meet Vera at the Women’s Day in 2016 . She is a truly remarkable person!
I you are passionate about snooker and you don’t already, give Nigel’s blog “The Green Baize” a follow.
Barry Hearn thanks NHS after coming through his second heart attack
Phil HaighThursday 9 Apr 2020
Barry Hearn has sent his thanks to the NHS as he recovers from a heart attack he suffered on Sunday.
The chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation and World Snooker Tour suffered a ‘minor’ heart attack at the weekend and had an operation on Tuesday. The veteran promoter, 71, returned home on Wednesday and appears to be in good spirits as he makes his way back to fitness.
Hearn tweeted: ‘Humbled by the thousands of “get well” wishes so thanks to each and everyone of you. Massive shout out to Broomfield and Basildon hospitals – don’t know what we’d do without the NHS. God bless you all and stay safe.’
Hearn added on Thursday morning: ‘Memories like this keep you going. Can’t wait for more ! Patience people sport will be back soon but we have a bigger battle to win first. God bless the NHS.’
This echoed the sentiments of his son Eddie, who confirmed the news on Wednesday, tweeting: ‘As if we can’t thank the NHS enough, I want to particularly thank the staff at Broomfield & Basildon. My dad @BarryHearn was taken to hospital on Sunday after a minor heart attack and was operated on yesterday.He is up and well and returns home today in good spirits!Thank you’
Barry first suffered a heart attack in 2002 and his family have a long history of heart problems. ‘I’ve waited 30 years for it so it didn’t come as a surprise,’ Hearn told the Mirror after his 2002 attack, ‘My father had it, and his father had it before him. No male of the past four generations in our family has got past 45. So anything more is a bonus.’
The man credited with booms in darts and snooker in recent years, along with his legendary career as a boxing promoter, was inundated with messages of support on Twitter.
As all the readers of this blog will know by now, I don’t always agree with Barry Hearn’s views on the way snooker should be managed and promoted but there is no doubt that he has massively improved the state of the Tour over the last 10 years. There are a lot more tournaments, more exposure and more money … I just wish the latter was a bit more evenly shared so that lower ranked players wouldn’t struggle so badly to make ends meet.
All the same, I’m whishing him the very best and sincerely hope that he fully recovers.
Snooker, like all professional sport, is currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone involved in the game is looking forward to its return but this is not the first time snooker has been forced to take a break, as journalist and commentator David Hendon explains…
Without Joe Davis, snooker’s first World Professional Championship may have arrived much later than 1927. And yet the game’s first star shone so brightly that he unwittingly played a part in its decline thirty years later.
Unlike the leading lights of today, Davis had no established players to watch, analyse or learn from but his father was a publican at the Queens Hotel, Whittington Moor in Chesterfield and the establishment boasted a full-sized snooker table.
Snooker was still in its infancy when Davis was in his. Billiards was the prevailing cue sport of its time and Davis, and his younger brother, Fred, became proficient players. Billiards, though, often lacked dramatic tension as a spectator sport because its matches could be so one-sided. In 1926, Davis lost in the world professional final by 6,500 points to Tom Newman. Audiences could admire the skills on show, but excitement was thin on the ground.
Davis saw an opportunity with snooker, the young upstart of the cue sports family, to make a name for himself and, more widely, for the game itself. Others had tried with little success. In 1924, Tom Dennis, a player and billiard hall owner, wrote to the then governing body for billiards asking them to consider promoting an open snooker tournament. The sniffy response he received read: “It seems doubtful whether snooker as a spectacular game is sufficiently popular to warrant the successful promotion of such a competition.”
Two years later Davis, supported by the promoter and table-maker Bill Camkin, managed to persuade them to reconsider. Ten players entered the inaugural championship and a trophy was purchased using half of the entry fees. It is still presented to the world champion to this day.
The tournament’s first match began on November 29, 1926. The following May at Camkin’s billiard hall in Birmingham, Davis defeated Dennis 20-11 in the final. The Billiard Player, the leading cue sports organ of the time, gave the event four paragraphs of coverage. There was clearly still a long way to go.
And yet the championship continued, albeit with a small but determined band of players. These were very different times. Davis had never driven a car but a rail strike in 1934 meant he could not get from Nottingham to Kettering to play Tom Newman, the only other entrant. Davis duly purchased a car, was given rough instructions on how to drive it and set off for the match.
Davis kept on winning and, as he did so, his reputation and celebrity grew. There was to be two decades of Davis dominance, interrupted only by the second world war. He won his 14thworld title in 1940 and his 15th and last when the tournament returned in 1946, after which he retired. This proved to be the start of snooker’s problems.
Davis had in fact only retired from competing in the championship but still played in other events, undertook exhibitions and television appearances and was by far the best known figure in the still fledgling sport. The fact he was not playing in the World Championship therefore seriously devalued it – like Hamlet without the prince – and the interest, such as it was, dwindled to the point that by 1957 no promoter wanted to touch it.
And so professional snooker entered a dark period of extended hibernation which was to last until 1964. This was the time of JFK and the Beatles. The 60s were swinging but snooker lay dormant. Perhaps it had been a fad after all, a novelty whose time had come and gone.
These were grim times for the players, who retreated back into normal life. Fred Davis had a hotel in Llandudno; Rex Williams a family printing firm in Staffordshire. Players still undertook exhibitions but making a living was hard, with the sport enjoying very little exposure outside of a few matches on black and white television, usually involving Joe and acting as filler between horse races on the BBC’s Grandstand.
Williams, who at 17 had won the English amateur title, was now 30 and restless. This should have been the prime period of his career. He took it upon himself to revive the World Championship on a challenge basis, with the reigning champion – in this case John Pulman – taking on a single opponent.
The governing body gave their sanction and Pulman beat Fred Davis 19-16 in the first World Championship to be staged for seven years. Pulman would win six further world titles on this basis against a series of challengers, Williams included, until 1968.
Williams believed that the players needed to take greater control of their destinies and pulled together a players’ association, which would become the WPBSA. Largely through his efforts, snooker’s profile was growing again. The players came back blinking into the sunlight of a new era, still uncertain but at least with playing opportunities and a World Championship restored.
The championship proceeded on a challenge basis until 1969 when the open format was revived. It coincided with the arrival of colour television, which led to Pot Black providing a national showcase. Suddenly, the leading players of the day were household names, from the head-masterly Ray Reardon to errant tearaway Alex Higgins. The public took to them, and to the game, and it led to increased interest from sponsors and television. Now, promoters could not get enough of snooker as a professional circuit was born and a boom beckoned.
And what of the man who had started it all?
In 1978, Joe Davis took his seat in the Crucible theatre in Sheffield, the new home for the World Championship, and watched Fred, at the age of 64, compete against Perrie Mans in the semi-finals. The match was so close, so exciting, and for Davis so personally involving, that he collapsed. He died a few months later at the age of 77.
Davis would surely marvel at the sport today, at its players, administration and global reach, but he had lived long enough to see the championship to which he gave life blossom into a major sporting attraction, and for snooker itself to rise from the ashes of indifference and burn brightly in the public consciousness.
Thanks to Roger Lee for the pictures.
And the BBC will show some Classic matches from April 18 on:
Here is what’s on the menu from April 18 to April 24: