Suzie Opacic Previews the New WLBS Snooker Season
Well here we go again, the next World Ladies Billiards & Snooker (WLBS) season comes around almost as quickly as the last one went by.
Here's my preview and thoughts on the 2018/19 WLBS season, but first of all I would like to thank Billiards Boutique for their continued support and sponsorship for the season.
The ladies tour ended last year with the Women's Festival of Snooker in Leeds in April, and we've had a slightly longer summer off these year with a usual fixture in the calendar for August, the Women's Paul Hunter Classic, not being held this year. In some respects the longer break in the season has been welcome - I never stop playing over the summer but with a break from league fixtures and many packing up their cues over summer, it's a good opportunity to bed in any tweaks to your game here and there, and the snooker clubs are generally nice and quiet for some focused practice sessions.
I've been doing a number of new routines recently with the help of my coach, Dave Mumford, and my break building is definitely improving, it's nice to be hitting the bigger frame winning breaks more consistently.
I also picked up a bit of silverware over summer, winning the Southampton & District League Doubles with Dave - it's the first time a Southampton league title has had a female name on the trophy since it was established in the 1950s so I was quite pleased with that, especially given the Southampton league has always been a very good standard.
WLBS Tour 2018-19 Kicks Off
The WLBS tour kicks off the season in one of our regular haunts, the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, where the Litetask Women's UK Championship will be held on 15-16 September. The event will also see a new WLBS Women's Snooker Open Day held at Leeds’ Kirkgate Markets to help raise awareness of women’s snooker and to encourage more women to take up the sport. Days like this are key to securing the future of the women's game and hopefully there will be a good turnout.
Women's Snooker at Grassroots Level
I definitely believe women's snooker at grassroots is on the up - we've a number of girls (as young as 7) now playing at my local club (Chandlers Ford) and school outreach programmes also seem to be playing a part. Hopefully as a tour we can all do our best to encourage girls into the game - I remember being the only girl growing up in the junior leagues at my local club and whilst it's good fun challenging the boys, it can be daunting going to new clubs and tournaments for the first time!
Tour Heads to Belgium
A few weeks after Leeds is the European Women's Masters running from 5-7 October 2018 at the De Maxx club in Neerpelt, Belgium.
The club is owned by 12-time European champion Wendy Jans, and somewhere I've not played before so I'm looking forward to travelling to Belgium to play there.
I lost out on qualification to Wendy in the group stages of the World Championships held in Malta last season, losing 3-2 after a 2-0 lead, so I'll be hoping to go one better this tournament.
The event will also run alongside the final stages of the professional D88.com European Masters tournament won last season by Judd Trump in nearby Lommel, giving the ladies a great opportunity to go and watch some matches in between their own. Running the women's event alongside the men's also offers excellent exposure for the ladies game, credit to WLBS and WPBSA in organising this.
On 25-28 October the WLBS travels down under with the Australian Women's Open 2018 taking place in Sydney. Whilst I'd love to play in this event, unfortunately my annual leave allowance at work won't stretch to a stint in Australia alongside the other tournaments planned for this year.
Juggling the women's tour, practice and a demanding day job is one challenge I'm sure many snooker players relish.
Next up and a bit closer to home is the Eden Women's Masters which will return to the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester on 24-25 November 2018. Last year's event was won by Ng On Yee following a dramatic 4-3 victory against Reanne Evans in the final. I always look forward to playing in Gloucester, the tables and conditions are excellent and it's the nearest event to me which is always a bonus. I was knocked out in the quarter finals by Reanne last year so hoping to progress further this season.
So, that's the tournaments to round off 2018, at time of writing WLBS are yet to release the full calendar for the second half of the season - I await in anticipation! I suspect we'll see an increasing number of tournaments outside of the UK, which can only be a good thing to help to make the women's game more inclusive across the globe.
The tour is making good strides in becoming a truly 'world' circuit and we already know a lot of the talent in the ladies game lies in countries that tournaments aren't usually held at. This season will also hopefully see many new faces playing, especially as WLBS are offering free entry for new players so there's no excuse not to get involved!
Look out for my blogs on Billiards Boutique's website to see my progress through the 2018/19 season, thanks for reading.