Opacic Ends The Season With a Final
The 13th-16th April saw the conclusion of the women's snooker season with the Festival of Women's Snooker held at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. The festival has been a regular on the calendar for a fair few seasons now and is always a fun event to be part of given it's made up of a number of different tournaments; the World Women's 10-red and 6 red Championships, the World Women's Pairs Championship and the World Women’s Under-21 Championship and World Women’s Seniors Championship. The event normally also includes the World Mixed Pairs, however recent years has seen difficulties in organising given it is played concurrently with the qualifiers for the professional Betfred World Championship in Sheffield, therefore the decision was taken not to hold the mixed pairs at the festival this year.
World Women's 10 Red Championships
The 6 reds and 10 reds formats take a little getting used to as there are a few rule changes; firstly, if a player fouls (and misses are called) 5 times, the other player has the option of a ball in hand (ie place anywhere on the table), and secondly, players are not allowed to roll up to a nominated ball (e.g pot a red and roll up behind a colour).
The top 6 ranked players were seeded straight through to the last 16, so being ranked 7th I just missed out. I faced England's Emma Parker in the last 32. Emma is an emerging young talent in the women's game and has already got a string of titles to her name including 2017 UK Women’s Under-21 Championship Winner and 2018 British Open Under-21 and Challenge Cup winner, and a ranking position of 17th.
We were playing on the super fine match cloth and tight pockets of the match table at Northern Snooker Centre (table 9), so it took a bit of adjusting to the lighting speed of the table. Nonetheless, a beautiful table to play on. I took the first 2 frames of the best of 5 before Emma took the third. I managed to finish off a cagey affair in the fourth frame by potting a long brown, blue and pink to take the match 3-1.
Into the last 16 and I faced Leeds youngster Aimee Ben. Aimee has been playing on the circuit a few seasons now and progressed steadily up the rankings following consistent results. Aimee left me a few chances in the balls which I was able to capitalise on and win the match 3-0.
Into the quarters and I faced World No2 and previous 11x World Women's Champion Reanne Evans (not for the first time this season!). Unfortunately I lost the match 3-0, with two frames going to the blue and one to a black ball. Reanne went on to take a 4-1 victory in the final over World No1 Ng On Yee.
World Women's 6 Red Championships
The next day saw the 6 reds format, again a straight knock out. Again, I was drawn into the last 32 having just missed out on a seeded spot into the last 16. First up I faced Hong Kong's Fong Mei Mei. I knew Fong Mei Mei, like all of the Hong Kong players was a good tactical player with sound match play and so I needed to take my chances in the balls when I got them and match her safety game. I managed to take a 2-0 lead before Fong Mei Mei took the third frame on the pink. A comfortable win with a run of 35 in the fourth frame saw me take a 3-1 win to go into the last 16.
My last 16 game once again saw me meet Emma Parker. Emma had just had a fantastic win over Thailand's Nutcharut Wongharuthai in the last 32 so I knew she'd be feeling confident. Nutcharat made an almost immediate impact on the World Women’s Snooker Tour this season as she reached the final of the 2018 British Open in February, highlighted by an impressive 4-2 victory against world number one Ng On Yee in the semi-finals. I'm looking forward to seeing how Nutcharat progresses, she's a real talent to watch out for in the future of the ladies game.
Emma started well and won the first frame comfortably, scoring when she had chances, I think I scored 1 point so knew I had to find my potting shoes! Fortunately I managed to take the next 2 frames, and a double on a black ball game in the fourth gave me a 3-1 victory.
Into the quarters and who did I face....Reanne Evans! This would be the 5th time I'd faced Reanne this season, having lost to her in the quarter finals of the UK Championship, Eden Masters and 10 Reds, and in the last 16 of the British Open. I knew if I were to beat Reanne at any point the 6 reds format would favour me, if I could take one chance in each frame and win frames at one visit. I've been scoring regular 60+ breaks in practice and so I knew it was possible. Unfortunately I never seem to play to my best against Reanne and couldn't take my chances, another 3-0 loss.
Although disappointing I was fairly pleased with quarter final results in both tournaments given this would see me retain consistent ranking points and a top 8 spot, closely behind Hong Kong's Katrina Wan in 7th.
World Women's Pairs
The last event of the festival was the Women's Pairs; I was pairing up with Laura Evans from Wales. Laura is 5th in the women's rankings and we had a great run in the doubles last season, defeating Hong Kong pair Ng On Yee and Katrina Wan in the semi finals before losing in spectacular fashion in the final 4-3 from 3-0 up! We were hoping to replicate it this year but get our hands on the winner's trophies instead!
We won our first match 2-0 against England's Jackie Ellis and Elizabeth Black in the quarter finals having been seeded through the last 16, and faced Thailand duo Nutcharat Wongharuthai and Waratthanun Sukritthanes in the semi finals. We knew this would be a good match - Nutcharat and Waratthanun are great players and Waratthanun had reached the semi finals the previous two days, with consistent scoring in the balls. The first frame was edgy and the colours went scrappy, leading to long drawn out safety battles, we had a 20 point deficit, but managed to claw back some points and Laura potted blue pink and black to secure a 1-0 lead.
The second frame was a one sided affair, Nutcharat got in early and put the Thai pair 20 points up. Waratthanun then added a well constructed 57 break, 1-1...decider! The decider was edgy and went down to the colours. Having potted the last red down to the brown, I'd left myself a thin cut to the middle which we needed to leave 18 in it with 18 on the table. I hit the near jaw which meant it left the brown over the middle with blue and pink also in play. Waratthanun potted the next few balls and a missed mid-range shot on the black which left us with a chance. The black landed on the side cushion by the middle pocket but I had a cross double to tempt me into the middle pocket. With no easy safety shot I decided to play the cross double and luckily it dropped in the middle bag! A nervy match we were very pleased to have won!
The final saw us play Dudley duo Reanne Evans (World No2) and Maria Catalano (World No3). Unfortunately the pair were too strong for us and we lost 4-0. A few frames went close but we weren't able to score consistently enough in the balls. Still, there's always next year!
Overall a super weekend in Leeds and it's great to see the women's game improving with the standard being pushed higher, especially with players from Thailand consistently competing now. This is exactly what the ladies game needs - if the standard continues to improve the support will follow. Thanks to all organisers at WLBS for a great season, and of course to my season sponsor Billiards Boutique!
Final Word From Us
It has been a delight to support Suzie throughout the WLBS season and I am pleased to say that we have approached Suzie again about continuing our involvement for the 2018-19 season, where hopefully, she can miss Reanne in the draw!
Thank you very much Suzie for flying the Billiards Boutique flag this season.
Article by Suzie Opacic exclusively for Billiards Boutique.