Reanne Evans’ dream of becoming the first woman to play at the Crucible was dashed as she lost 10-8 to Ken Doherty in the first round of the Betfred World Championship qualifiers.
Evans put up an almighty fight against former World Champions Doherty and looked in with a real chance of winning in the closing stretch. But the experience of 45-year-old Doherty told in the end as he scrapped his way into round two. He returns to Ponds Forge in Sheffield on Sunday to face David Morris or Lee Walker, needing two more wins to reach the final stages.
Ten-time World Ladies Champion Evans was given an invitation by the WPBSA to compete in this event and was proud to have gone toe-to-toe with 1997 Crucible King Doherty.
“It was a struggle, the whole game was scrappy but I just dug in there,” said the 29-year-old from Dudley. “I’m happy to have stuck in there with a player who has been World Champion and has so much experience, and to have given him a fright. I’m not used to playing these long matches so it’s good experience for me.
“From the start I could see that he was under it, he was twitching a bit. I just couldn’t manage to take control of the match. I didn’t play my best today, I just scrapped and fought all the way. There’s no reason why I can’t beat people like Ken if I play a bit better. If I could play in events like this more often, you never know. The ladies game is very different. I’ve got to take the positives.
If it had gone 9-9 I think I would have won. I felt really good out there, although there were a few nerves. I just kept losing position because I’m not used to the tables.
Evans led 3-1 in the early stages, making a 51 in the fourth frame which proved her highest break of the match. Doherty, whose top run was 64, hit back to lead 5-4 at the end of the first session.
The first four frames of the evening session were shared to leave the score poised at 7-6 at the interval, before Doherty got the better of the 14th to lead by two. Evans came from 36-0 down to win frame 15, making an excellent 42 clearance.
In the 16th frame, which lasted 45 minutes, Doherty came from 57-0 down and took it to the colours. A long safety battle on the pink ended when Evans left it close to a centre pocket, and her opponent dropped it in to lead 9-7.
Doherty had a clear chance to seal victory in the next but could only make 20. Runs of 23 and 35 from Evans proved enough to halve the deficit.
In frame 18, Evans led 47-6, and had chances to force a decider. She looked to have done so when she potted the final blue to go 17 points ahead. But Doherty got the snooker he needed on the pink, then potted it, and when Evans left him a chance at the black to a centre pocket, he slotted it home.
“It was such a tough game and she played out of her skin,” said Doherty. “She kept me under pressure all the way through and played good matchplay snooker. If it had gone 9-9 I was a million to one to win.
“When you play the ten-time ladies World Champion it’s a lot of added pressure and I knew that. It was different to what I had experienced before. If I’d lost I’d possibly never hear the end of it, a bit like the black I missed for a 147 at the Masters – it would have been that all over again.
“I don’t usually have sympathy with players when I beat them – the only time I remember that before was when I beat Paul Hunter 17-16 in the (2003) world semi-finals. But I said to Reanne at the end that if she had been playing anyone else I would have been rooting for her. She deserved to win because she played better than me.
“She was there today because she deserves it, she’s a good player and she should be given more chances on the tour. Her safety knowledge is better than anyone I’ve played this year – she’s extremely clever in the way she positions the cue ball. Players like that are a dying breed.”