Tag Archives: Reanne Evans

Reanne Evans and snooker’s gender divide

The glass ceiling remains intact. Try as she might, Reanne Evans, snooker’s most decorated female player, has failed to make a meaningful impact on the men’s tour thus far.

Last month’s defeat to the legendary Jimmy White at the Shoot Out was the latest missed chance for Evans to make a statement, to give a taste of the quality that has won her 11 world titles in the women’s game.

Although opportunities have been relatively sparse, that defeat at the hands of White, 56, is the latest example of Evans’ inability to produce the goods when it really matters.

A one-table setup, a large, boisterous audience, live TV coverage, and Evans’ touch deserted her, an inexplicable miscue the defining moment of a nervy encounter, allowing White to secure victory in the fast, high-octane format that is the Shoot Out.

Of course, it would be wrong to place too much emphasis on Evans’ or indeed fellow female player Emma Parker’s performances at the Shoot Out.

Such a variant event is not an accurate measuring stick of any player’s true ability; the bright lights and baying crowd a far cry from snooker’s usual dignified confines. But such chances are ones that must be seized if a woman is to break up the boy’s club that is the professional tour.

Evans’ record in professional ranking events leaves something to be desired. She has participated in the World Championship qualifiers for four years in a row, failing to reach the Crucible each time.

In 2017, she overcame Robin Hull 10-8 in the first round of qualifying, a victory she described as the ‘best win’ of her career, but succumbed meekly to Lee Walker in the next.

She took part in Q School, a means by which players can qualify for the tour, in 2018, but could not emerge victorious. Results in the other scattered ranking events in which she has competed represent a failure to perform to her true ability.

Lack of incentive

The gender divide in certain sports is something of a hot topic. In a sport such as snooker — or indeed darts, where the best female players too have struggled to compete — where physical aptitude plays second fiddle to mental resilience and tactical shrewdness, why is it that the chasm between the most successful female player of all time and even the lowest ranked players on the men’s circuit is so large?

Evans herself has pointed to the lack of prize money within the women’s tour as a reason for why many females struggle to attain the same standards as their male counterparts.

“We need to attract more [players], improve the game and build our own ladies’ tour up, then maybe — in a couple of years — give the top four ranked players places in invitational events or on the [main] tour,” she said in a BBC Radio 4 interview in 2015. “At the moment ladies don’t want to be pushed into the deep end.”

In the four years since those remarks, while the prize money on offer in the men’s game has burgeoned, landing the women’s world title still nets only a measly four-figure sum, peanuts compared to the record £500,000 cheque on offer to the winner of this year’s main World Championship.

The sad and brutal truth is that sponsors and investors will continue to shirk the women’s tour as long as the main professional game remains in such good health.

All in the head?

“The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don’t think so many females have” – Steve Davis

But perhaps mere facts and figures do not do this particular issue justice, but rather key psychological factors play an important part in this debate. Six-time world champion Steve Davis believes that entrenched differences between men and women mean that female snooker players will always be at a disadvantage.

“The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don’t think so many females have,” Davis said in a 2014 interview with the BBC.

He added that women lack “that single minded determination in something that, it must be said, is a complete waste of time — trying to put snooker balls into pockets with a pointed stick. Men are ideally suited to doing something as absolutely irrelevant in life as that.”

Evans even went so far as to back up Davis’ view at the time:” I think women find it difficult just to concentrate on snooker,” she said “I’ve got my little girl and you’re always thinking about them. Maybe men find it easier to focus on one thing at one time. Maybe that’s a slight advantage there.”

The question lies in whether or not such underlying psychological discrepancies are scientifically inherent, or if they are merely borne of the constructs that society has demanded women adhere to for centuries.

For Evans, the quest continues to disrupt the top table of snooker’s established male elite. There is a sense that all it could take is one breakthrough moment, one string of results or a big-name scalp for Evans to convince the world, and indeed herself, that snooker itself is not discriminative, but we as a society often are. 

Snooker’s Shoot Out: Why there’s magic behind the madness

In they file, bringing with them their large jugs of lager at 12.30 in the afternoon, ready for another four days of merriment.

These are the loyal yearly attendees of the Snooker Shoot Out, an event which laughs in the face of snooker’s traditional grace and decorum, placing cheap, poorly-fitting polo shirts on the normally smart professionals, and placing a beer cup in the hand of normally solemn spectators, along with an invitation to shout, guffaw, and generally degrade themselves.

Originally a one-off event held in September 1990, the Shoot Out returned to the professional snooker tour in 2011 and has held its place in the calendar ever since.

It is a fast, frantic form of the sport, each match comprised of a single 10-minute frame, with a 15-second shot clock that falls to 10 seconds for the final five minutes. Any foul results in ball in hand for the opponent. The crowd are encouraged to chant and holler in what is snooker’s answer to the beered up, rootin’ tootin’ atmosphere of live darts.

To watch the Shoot Out on TV is one thing, but attending in person presents the full array of pros and cons this unique event offers up. On TV, the atmosphere is diluted somewhat.

The commentary drowns out much of the boorish crowd, and the frequent wisecracks from members of the audience are, perhaps mercifully, inaudible through the television set.

But to witness the event at the Watford Colosseum first hand sees this seemingly benign event take on a whole new level. Everything is cranked up. The garish bleats and cries of the crowd pervade the atmosphere.

The bleeping of the shot clock timer conjures images of an operating theatre. MC Phil Seymour’s shrill timbre stings the eardrum, along with the dull, humanoid voice that yells ‘10 SECOND SHOT CLOCK NOW IN OPERATION,’ not dissimilar to the warning heard when the luggage doors of a coach are opening.

To derive any semblance of enjoyment from such a clamorous affair requires one to disabuse themselves of any prior held notions of what a snooker tournament should rightfully represent.

This is worlds apart from the soft, silent confines of the Crucible Theatre, where the slightest rustle of a Murray Mint wrapper draws tuts of admonishment.

This is thrash metal snooker, where the core values of strategic thinking and measured pragmatism are flung out the window like a rock star’s hotel TV. The shot clock disrupts players’ natural thought processes, sowing seeds of doubt where there would otherwise be none.

Quick-fire

It’s a well-worn cliché that the end result justifies the means, and in this case the end result is exceptional entertainment. There’s something thrilling about seeing these usually level-headed players scrambling around the table while the onlookers howl at them.

Some players crumble underneath the tumult of it all, while others rise to the occasion, almost relishing the challenge and the antagonism of the crowd.

‘Despite the fun image the event seeks to promote, many top pros resent the Shoot Out, and only six of snooker’s top 16 ranked players bothered to enter’

One such example is the eventual winner of this year’s edition, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. The 33-year-old is the fastest player on the tour, posting an average shot time this season of 16.5 seconds, more than 1.5 seconds faster than second-placed Jack Lisowski. On paper, he’s the most suited player to the unique tempo of the Shoot Out.

And he stepped up to the plate at the business end of the tournament, beating an in-form Stuart Bingham in the quarters before producing a blistering break of 139 in his semi-final clash against Jamie Clarke.

It was the highest break in Shoot Out history, eclipsing Martin Gould’s effort of 135 in 2011. Another quick-fire 74 secured the title against a helpless Michael Holt.

Un-Nooh’s performances were the highlight of the four days, but overall it was a tournament of immense quality. To make a century in a 10-minute frame while the manifold sounds of the bleeping shot clock and the beery, shouty crowd pervade, is a remarkable achievement.

The total of four centuries during the tournament is itself a Shoot Out record, as the tournament seems to rise in quality year upon year.

A hive of stories

Despite the fun image the event seeks to promote, many top pros resent the Shoot Out, and indeed only six of snooker’s top 16 ranked players bothered to enter.

However, the absence of the sport’s usual suspects allows lesser spotted amateurs and youngsters to have their moment in the spotlight. The Shoot Out is a hive of stories, the result of the presence of so many underdogs combined with the unpredictable nature of its format.

It offers a glimpse of the sport’s future, as talented prospects are given an opportunity to flaunt their wares on live TV. Perhaps the biggest story of this year’s edition was the emergence of 16 year-old Ryan Davies, a spotty skeleton of a teenager blessed with a cue action as smooth as silk.

The youngster saw off Robbie Williams, 14 year-old Ben Mertens, and the very capable Sunny Akani to reach the last 16 before succumbing to eventual runner-up Holt.

Mertens himself caused quite a stir in round one, knocking out the venerable Thai James Wattana by a single point in a Shoot Out classic. Former world number three Wattana needed just the pink to claim victory, but saw the match clock elapse agonisingly before it could be dispatched.

Liam Davies, 12, was the youngest participant, but saw his hopes swiftly dashed as first-round opponent Ricky Walden knocked in a rip-roaring 132 break to send the young Welshman packing.

Even still, the chance for these youngsters to pit their wits against seasoned pros is thoroughly uplifting, and it’s an opportunity that would not be possible if it weren’t for the Shoot Out.

Here come the girls

Two of the sport’s best female talents, Reanne Evans and Emma Parker, were also invited to compete. Indeed, Evans’ matchup with snooker legend Jimmy White was arguably the pick of the first round ties.

It proved a nervy affair, and an untimely miscue by the 11-time women’s world champion proved costly, allowing White to hold his nerve and seal his passage to round two, to the delight of the crowd.

Parker went out with something of a whimper, losing to Indian amateur Laxman Rawat. It felt as though it was a missed opportunity for both Parker and Evans to make a statement of their talents.

Evans in particular, who has toiled for some time to make an impact on the main tour, didn’t play to her potential, but that is the nature of the Shoot Out, where a player’s chances can go up in smoke with one long pot by an opponent or an unfavourable run of the ball.

It’s a fascinating question as to why Evans has been unable to gain a place on the main tour.

In a sport that is less concerned with physical aptitude, and more to do with mental strength and level-headedness, how can the sport’s most decorated female player, who has won a plethora of titles in the women’s game, be so far behind even the lowest-ranked male players?

Why so serious?

There is much to enjoy and much to despise about the Shoot Out. It is not for everyone, and its ranking status is a bone of contention amongst many. Many attendees flock to binge drink with their mates, call out nonsensical gibberish, and generally indulge themselves in nincompoopery.

Yet others seem to be there to try and enjoy the snooker, longing for the peace and quiet of other events. You can hear them tutting and see them frowning at the uncouth drunkards.

Many die-hard fans will refuse to tune in to the Shoot Out, such is their animosity towards what they view as a debasing of the long-held values of snooker.

But then, perhaps the key to enjoying the Shoot Out lies in simply embracing it for what it is, to leave preconceived notions at the doorstep and revel in the revelry. Snooker is a tense, high-pressured sport at the best of times, and this once a year chance for players and fans alike to let their hair down should be welcomed, cherished even.

Sport can be a lot of fun when everyone’s not quite so serious all the time.