KEN DOHERTY survived a night of high drama to deny Reanne Evans further progress towards becoming the first woman to qualify for the final stages of the Betfred World Championship on Thursday night.
Doherty, the 1997 world champion, got the snooker he needed on the pink in the 18th frame and eventually potted the last black to win 10-8 and reach the second of three qualifying rounds being played at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.
On a tension filled day in the Steel City, Evans took an early 3-1 lead before Doherty edged 5-4 ahead going into the final session.
Evans, the ten times women’s world champion, stayed in touch and at 9-8 looked set to force a decider when she potted a long blue to lead by 17 with just pink and black remaining. But Doherty laid a good snooker and Evans eventually double-kissed the black attempting a safety, leaving Doherty a straight forward black to a middle pocket for victory.
Evans had been invited to play in the qualifiers as part of an expanded tournament of 144 players and created large media interest. Clare Balding, the TV sports presenter, was among those watching and tweeting about the match.
In the end she just came up short but Evans did more than represent women’s snooker with credit. She did so with distinction.
She took the game to Doherty, one of snooker’s greatest ever all round match-players, and very nearly beat him.
The question now arises as to whether she should receive a wild card to play on the professional circuit next season. From a publicity standpoint, and to encourage greater female participation in snooker, this would make sense. Others would argue she should not get special treatment because of her gender and can qualify through Q School if she is good enough.
But that’s an argument to come. Tonight she can hold her head up. She did herself proud.
She also proved that it isn’t only the Crucible where the World Championship proves its capacity to create extraordinary drama.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.