Reanne Evans is the best female snooker player on the planet and has been for a number of years. Still only the tender age of 26; an age where most of her male counterparts are entering their peak years, she has won the Ladies World Championship no fewer than 7 times and as long she keeps playing you wouldn’t bet against an end total to rival Phil Taylor’s haul in darts. Barry Hearn gave her a wildcard onto the Main Tour for the 2010/11 season because of her stature in the ladies game, however she struggled to make an impact caused in no small part by the alien conditions she had to adapt to against a much higher level of opponent than she was used to competing against. With the experience of that season under her belt she had a more successful campaign as an amateur in this seasons PTC events, and has entered Q School in effort to qualify by rights back onto the Main Tour. I caught up with her shortly after the SWSA Festival where she was a member of Team Snooker Island (see previous blog).
First of all I see you’ve entered Q School so how is your form going into it, are you confident?
Well at Gloucester (SWSA Spring Festival) I didn’t expect to play that well because I’d been ill and hadn’t been playing much going into it, but I was cueing alright and I feel alright now so that’s given me the confidence to go for it because at one point I thought I might not be able to.
What was wrong with you?
I had pleurisy.
And how long did it last?
About 3 months all in all.
Wow so that must have affected your practice and preparation a lot.
Yes I didn’t pick my cue up at all for about 3 months; I didn’t even look at it.
When did you feel well enough to pick up your cue again?
Probably a week or two before Gloucester.
What would it mean for you to qualify through the Q School?
It would mean a lot because I’d like to prove I can do it in that respect because obviously there were a lot of opinions floating about when they gave me a wildcard for the tour last season. I feel like I can do it, it’s just about getting there with my game and being more consistent I guess.
Did you enjoy the Spring Festival and playing for team Snooker Island?
Yes I did, it was something different. I’ve not played in anything like that before really, apart from European team ladies events and things like that but there are only 2 players in each team there, where this was more like a league match. It was good, I enjoyed it.
How did you come to take up snooker?
Just watching my family play really. All my family play and my two brothers are really good and I used to follow them when I was younger and go to all their matches. My brother Ryan used to practice with John Reid and Martin Clark and I would go and watch them and I thought I’ll try that one day, and then it happened!
How old were you when you were watching them?
I was probably watching properly from when I was about 12, and then I picked up a cue when I was about 13.
It’s not long after that you played in the ladies World Championship and reached the semi-final, was it 2002?
Yes I was 16 so it would have been 2002.
What age were you when you realised you had a special talent?
My first tournament ever was the Ladies World Championship which was held in Swindon that year. I didn’t even know what to expect, how many people would be there or what their ability would be like or the standard or anything like that, so I just went there and played and obviously got to the semi-final, so then I thought maybe I can play! (laughs)
So that was the first tournament you ever entered?
I probably entered summer leagues round our local area but nothing like that extreme. I didn’t even know other women players at that time.
What sort of reaction did you have from boys in your age group when you were playing them and then beating them?
There were a few bad tempered ones! But obviously my brothers were playing and they knew them so they’d heard of me beforehand, locally, so it wasn’t too bad. They took to me quite well to be honest.
What was the first tournament you won and how did you feel?
I’ve no idea! (laughs)
You can’t remember! OK looking at the record books you were European Team Cup winner and Connie Cough Memorial winner in 2004? Ladies British Open champion the same year? That sounds like a proper event, do you remember that?
Brilliant! The funny thing about that is Mark Jones told me that sometimes in the car on the way home after a match he asks Hannah about a certain shot she played say like a missed blue which cost her the match, and she can’t remember the shot he’s talking about literally minutes after she played it!
To be honest I don’t remember that much after I’ve played either. Obviously you remember certain shots or a frame where you needed snookers and came back and won, or frames where you made a good break but generally as frames go it’s very rare that I remember. It’s probably because I want to block them out!
You’re 7 times Ladies World Champion to date, I was going to ask about your first title but I think I know what you’re going to say!
(laughs) It does sound really bad doesn’t it? I really can’t remember! The one that sticks out in my mind was when I was pregnant.
I was going to ask you next which one gave you the most satisfaction. So that was obviously the one, when you were pregnant?
Obviously the first one gave me a lot of satisfaction because it’s a big thing to win your first world title but the one that sticks in my memory is when I was pregnant. I didn’t expect to do anything and I couldn’t reach the table but I played really well!
How pregnant were you?
I was nearly 8 months!
Well that surely trumps Stephen Hendry winning one of his with a broken arm!
Do you remember the reaction to your first world title in terms of media interest and has it improved at all as time has gone on?
To be honest I don’t think there’s been that much coverage of it or ladies snooker in general. I get a little bit of recognition because I’ve travelled a little bit with tournaments, so from people in India and China because it’s really big over there. I just wish there was more interest here because it’s meant to be the biggest country involved in snooker but it’s a bit disheartening because maybe if I was from one of those other countries it would be a totally different story and I’d probably be well known.
Obviously you’re well known in snooker circles but when it comes to the outside media you’ve maybe had the odd little slot on the BBC but there’s certainly never been any decent televised coverage of ladies games.
No not really. Even things like when I’ve been on the BBC news and Midlands Today they filmed me when I was pregnant and they used the same interview a couple of years ago and people thought I was pregnant again! But it just shows that people don’t really know much about it or can’t really be bothered to do anything about it with interviews and things like that.
It’s a bit disheartening isn’t it?
How do you cope with the pressure of being the flag-bearer for the ladies game? Do you feel the pressure?
Of course you do. Everybody’s eyes are on you and they’re setting you as their target and things like that. But you’ve got to try and revel in it at the same time. It’s given me opportunities like playing on the tour and getting into certain events. It’s just that you have to try and take as much media coverage as you can as well because you’re trying to improve your profile as well as the ladies game in general.
When it comes to actually playing in the events do you feel the pressure of being expected to win or do you have an advantage over your rivals because you’re the one to be feared?
I think it’s both really. You obviously feel the pressure because people want you to lose now because you always win and they want people to start beating you because they get fed up of seeing the same faces. It’s like what happened with Hendry and Davis; people loved them when they first came along, and then they hated them and now they love them again. It’s that sort of thing really but perhaps you need that little bit of pressure to push you on a little bit.
So does it spur you on thinking there might be people wanting you to lose? That’s certainly what happened with Hendry, and probably Davis as well.
Yes it definitely does, you want to prove them wrong. I’m the opposite because I think if they keep winning then they obviously deserve to be there, so I’m cheering for them to win!
Do you feel more pressure as time goes on or do you feel you’ve had the worst of it and can cope with it better now?
Well when I was on my unbeaten run I was just taking it in my stride and then when everyone kept mentioning it and saying “You’ve got to get to 100, you’ve got to get to 100” then you think oh yeah, perhaps I can do it. And then obviously when that’s taken from you it’s disappointing but at the end of the day you’ve made that record.
I suppose Neil Robertson will feel that now he’s just lost his finals record. And Mark Williams had that run of first round victories and was trying to get to 50 but it ended on 48.
Yes that’s the same sort of thing. It’s obviously disappointing but you’ve got to keep it going as long as you can. Everything has to come to an end eventually.
It was only recently you lost it wasn’t it?
Yes it was the end of the season.
What was the record run? How many matches in a row?
I don’t know! (laughs)
Haha brilliant, you went for a record and set it and you don’t know what it is!
[Reanne later confirmed the record run was 90 matches. It also transpires that she was feeling unwell and light-headed with a chest infection in the match she lost which later became the pleurisy she mentioned at the start of the interview, but doesn’t want it to sound like an excuse and was pleased that the player who ended the run was her friend Maria Catalano.]
You’ve achieved everything in the ladies game and because of that you were given a wildcard onto the main tour for the 2010/11 season. Is the logical next step for you to try and prove yourself against the men and put everything into getting onto the main tour again or are you happy to keep dominating the ladies game? Where are your priorities if there was a clash of dates for example?
I would go to the men’s and the PTCs. It improves my game to play against the men. When I play the ladies, I know I’ve been beaten and obviously there’s a couple of players who can beat me, but I don’t feel like they push me enough. And obviously the conditions are completely different. From playing that season on tour I’m used to playing on really nice tables and it’s totally different. But I do prefer playing the men.
What time of year is the Ladies World Championship?
Towards the end of April.
So it’s the same time as the men’s World Championship. So if you ever reached the Crucible… I’ll skip that it’s a silly question!
(laughs) Well I’d hope they would let me play in both!
You had a bit of a tough time of it during your year on the main tour; I don’t think you won a match did you?
No, on paper I didn’t win a match but the way I felt and the experience I gained from it brought me on leaps and bounds. All you can ask for is the experience and some people never get that chance.
How was the experience?
It was tough, everything was totally different like the surroundings and the tables and the atmospheres, everything was different. The competition was obviously a lot stronger, but I did enjoy it even though I didn’t win a match. Most of my matches were 4-0 but didn’t reflect the match so I knew I could take more from them than other people saw on paper.
Before you started the season there was talk on Snooker Island and other discussion sites about how well you might do and everyone knew from the start that you had a massive disadvantage in not having the match practice on the Star tables. From the team event last week you seem to have got to grips with the tables now but it must have been a huge burden to play against good players who were used to playing on them whereas you were used to ladies events where they would probably stick you on the worst table in the club?
Yeah. It’s a totally different game. You play one game on a club table and one game on a match table and all I knew was the club table game, and you can’t play that game on a match table. And obviously it was against better opposition who can tie you up in knots. They’re just so nice to play on but tough. If you’re playing really well they can make you look good. They can make you look really good or they can make you look really bad! So obviously you need that time on the table.
Having played on the Star table I can understand but I don’t think people reading this who haven’t played on them and play on club tables will be able to fully appreciate the difference because they are SO different.
Yes they won’t realise unless they play on them but obviously people have their own opinions but I know that it’s hard to play on those tables and to adjust from a club table to match table, so that’s all that matters really.
In your tour season were there any matches you felt particularly aggrieved about losing, ones you felt you should have won or which would have been a particularly good result? You pushed Neil Robertson to a decider didn’t you?
Yes I should’ve beaten him and he fluked a snooker on me in the decider with just the colours on!
The bastard! So that one sticks in your mind?
I know it’s sour grapes and everything but to be honest I never had any run in my matches either! No matter how well you play you still need the run, that bit of luck on your side and it just wasn’t there for me.
A question from a member: Did playing on the main tour open your eyes to what you had to do get better as a player because you looked more competitive in the PTCs this season compared to last season?
Yeah of course it did, it’s all experience and it was all new to me so that experience puts you in good stead for what’s coming. You learn what shots to take on and hopefully what shots to play.
It sounds like you’re itching to get back on tour and have another crack at it with that experience behind you?
Yes I would like to have another go to see if it has put me in good stead for the future. You won’t know until you’re actually on there will you?
Just remembering back to an interview with Hannah Jones and I asked her if because of the circumstances with the tables etc. if you should be given another chance with another wildcard and she said you shouldn’t because it would be more satisfying to get there on merit. Is that how you see it?
Well if someone offered me that chance I’m not going to turn it down, you’re obviously going to take it, but it would give you more satisfaction knowing you’ve qualified. You probably feel like you deserved it more.
Are you a bad loser?
Not really. I wish I was! I think you do need that little bit of oomph in you and to get angry to get you pumped up and I wish I had that little bit more of it, that killer instinct.
How do you feel your game is at the moment because at your age in the men’s game this is where they’re starting to reach their peak years? Do you feel like it’s the same for you?
It’s hard to say. Obviously it’s proven that women can’t do it as the men at the moment and they have no idea why because it’s not physical or anything like that. I just feel that you need to enjoy it and as long as you’re enjoying it and are happy with it then you can play to your ability. And at the moment I’m enjoying it again.
Do you think you’re better now that you were two years ago for example. Would you beat yourself of two years ago now?
I would say so yes. I may not be as flamboyant in one area but I’ve improved all round.
Your safety game is exceptional by the way and your potting to middle pockets especially from the baulk end of the table I found really good to watch. Some of the shots that I know were really difficult you knock in with ease and I learnt a lot just from watching you. It made me think “Ah so that’s how you do it”.
(laughs) Thank you. I’ve always preferred middle pockets and I don’t know why. Obviously I need to do the same in the corners now and I’ll be happy!
Does being a mother impact on your practice and tournament time?
It does. Obviously she (daughter Lauren) goes to school in the day so you can practice but your mind is never far away from your daughter and when you’re away it’s even harder not seeing her every day. I know she’s with my parents and is being well looked after but it’s still in the back of your mind that you want to see her and talk to her and things like that.
So if you had any overseas tournaments and had to leave her behind that would affect you a lot obviously.
Yeah it does really. People might think I’m using it as an excuse but I’m not used to doing it.
I actually think it will be harder for women than men when you’ve got young children in those circumstances.
I think that’s maybe one of the differences between men and women players. Men think about things more if you know what I mean, I find it hard to concentrate on that one thing at that one time consistently.
Do you still have a hunger for the game now you’ve achieved everything you have at such a young age? Do you still strive to do more?
Yes you always want to better yourself with more titles and more records and things like that. That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to do something in the men’s game because then it’s another step that I’ve taken.
Who were your main influences in the game growing up? Did you have any influences in the ladies game and obviously who in the men’s game?
Growing up I didn’t even know there were ladies playing, even when I was playing, until my brother used to play Kelly (Fisher) and Maria. He introduced me to them and that’s when I knew that there were women players about. So I can’t really say there was a lady player that influenced me. Obviously now I’ve heard about Alison (Fisher) and how highly people speak about her and that they compare us but I didn’t know who she was or how she was or anything. But in the men’s I always used to watch Hendry, and Ronnie because he’s just so natural.
Do you have any favourites today that you like to watch on TV and learn from?
If I’m honest I don’t really watch that much. I watch the odd game here and there but I think if you play them you’ll learn more because obviously they’re punishing you and you want to stop it. I do watch it but it’s more shot selection and things like that. Everybody has different ways of breakbuilding and going through a frame but I do love watching Ronnie play. I think he’s brilliant!
When you were with Mark Allen you obviously practiced a lot with him so how much did it bring your game on and how often did you beat him?
I think I beat him once! That was when we first got together in Holland. I played him and there was an Indian guy on the next table and I beat him 6-5 and in every frame we had a break over 50 and the Indian guy was gobsmacked! So it was quite funny. But he’s a very good player, he’s awesome and obviously it’s going to bring your game on playing those sorts of players.
Did he ever give you a head start?
No he was too mean for that! Plus I didn’t want it.
Have you seen any progression in the ladies game since you started out with both ladies coming through and attitudes towards the game as well?
I can’t really say apart from Hannah really. I played her last month and to me it looked like she’d improved her shot selection and her control of the white was a lot better than it was before and she played a few safety shots which I was shocked at!
I was with Mark at the Paul Hunter qualifiers last month and we were laughing about that, I think we saw her play one safety shot in three frames when there was a chance of a pot! So you think Hannah is the one to watch out for?
(laughs) The way she’s been improving she could be yeah.
Do you think she’d have a chance to get on the men’s tour?
I think she’s a bit young to mention it at the minute but she’s obviously playing against the men at her age now and she’s competing now and again so…
We’re talking 5, 6, 7 years’ time really.
Maybe in the future yes. It’s possible.
What about attitudes towards the ladies game since you started out, are the tournaments getting any bigger or better run or more prize money?
No. It stinks basically.
Yeah. It’s a shame really. I know I keep comparing it to other sports and not just me but people around me in the rankings like Maria and people like that, but if you compare it to other sports we should be earning a fortune now no matter what sports you play in. I think it’s unfair that you’re out of pocket and you’re winning. OK the standard might not be as good as you see on TV but you’ve got to give them the chance to do that. They can’t afford to have weeks off work to practice so it’s not going to improve.
So you’re winning events and you’re out of pocket by the end of it?
It’s not right is it?
I’m fortunate and I’m so grateful to Paul Mount and OnQ Promotions for sponsoring me and that helps me out but other people who haven’t do end up out of pocket and I think it’s a joke. They get no recognition whatsoever.
What prize money have you won for the Ladies World Championship because surely that’s got to be the biggest purse?
From all the years I’ve won it’s varied from the highest of £1000 and the lowest of £400.
That’s crazy! It partly answers the next question from a member who was asking about the prize money in ladies snooker compared to darts.
Yeah I think the winner of that got £10,000 or £15,000 or something like that.
Which is where you’d think it should be in snooker at least.
Well apart from the semis and the final of darts they never show lady darts anyway.
They always have best of 3s or something stupid as well don’t they which is totally patronising?
Yes it’s ridiculous. Anastasia went over to the men’s didn’t she?
It was Barry Hearn who took her to the PDC much like he brought you onto the main tour so he’s obviously a good guy in trying to promote the ladies game in one regard.
She probably got money for it though didn’t she? We’re not asking to be millionaires or anything but you shouldn’t be out of pocket if you’re winning.
If you’re to have a foundation to build on and get the next generation interested and thinking they can have a future then it needs to be worthwhile doesn’t it?
Yes it’s got to make people want to play and carry on playing because otherwise it’s just going to die and obviously nobody wants that.
How do you see the future of the ladies game, do you think it needs to move into other areas like the Far East or Europe?
Well at the moment it’s basically non-existent and I’m absolutely gutted. Obviously Mandy has quit as well now.
This is Mandy Fisher who was pretty much running the ladies game.
Yes obviously she put so many years into the game and did a really good job but she’s got her own life to live now.
This question comes from Mark Jones as you’ll probably realise from the question. If your daughter Lauren displayed great skills in snooker would you, based on your experiences so far, guide her to play the game or encourage her to do something else?
I’d hate it if she did but obviously if she wanted to I’d never stop her. I’d rather she take up golf or tennis! But if she wants to take up snooker then that’s what she wants to do.
You must have had offers to play pool in America so is it something you’ve ever considered? Do you play any pool?
I’ve never played pool! Well I’ve played it a few times after drinks with friends but I don’t know the rules or anything like that. I do get a lot of offers to play 8 ball in the UK. I would try America and have a go at that for a little while but obviously with the little one I can’t go and live over there. I wouldn’t mind trying it though for something different.
Is it something for the future then when Lauren is older?
If it’s still there then yes.
It’s pretty big over there isn’t it? You must have seen it with Alison Fisher and the like?
Yes. I think it’s even leaving America now and slowly moving to Asia. That’s what a few people have told me but I don’t really follow it and don’t know any of the players apart from the English ones really.
They’re making good money out of it as well.
That’s the way it should be. If you’re good at it you should be earning!
Definitely. Onto a lighter subject then, how old were you when you made your first century break?
Erm… (laughs) I’m trying to think because the story was that I had a Lewis and Wilson cue and the guy who put the tables in the club saw me play and told me I could come to the shop and pick a cue if I want and it was anything up to £70. I picked one which was £120 and he said go on then you can have it, and then the ferrule came off not long after I had it! So my brother let me use his old one and I really liked it and he said “Well you’re not having it!” but I kept on because I was playing really well with it and he said “If you make a century with it you can keep it.” Not long after that I had a century with it so I would have been about 15.
Is that the cue you still use today?
No it was until I had my Parris one made last April. My other one needed a bit of work doing and needed thinning down at the top and stuff like that.
Did he try and make it to the same specifications?
Yeah he took all my measurements and everything and I’m really happy with the cue. He did a fantastic job.
Have you ever had a 147 in practice?
No. I’ve missed the brown 3 times!
What’s the highest break you’ve ever had in a match?
In a match I’ve had 140. Two of them!
Have you ever tried your hand at hustling?
You must’ve been tempted by someone who doesn’t know you and thinks they can’t lose to a girl?
It’s always been pool though which is a leveller, not snooker. They chicken out then!
What’s your opinion on the shot clock?
It’s alright every now and then to mix things up but in general, no.
What’s your favourite format for a match? Most of the matches you’ve played will have been best of 7 but do you prefer a best of 9 with a mid-session interval or a best of 19 over 2 sessions for example?
One of the things I found really difficult to come to terms with (in the 2010/11 season) was intervals. I never had intervals in any of my matches before and I never played the best of 19 or anything like that or a best of 17 like in the UK. It was all brand new to me but obviously there’s less pressure from the start and you’ve got a couple of extra frames to get into the match because they’re a bit longer. I think that when you’re on the tour you’re a professional and no matches should be best of 7.
Not even PTCs?
Well I think there’s too much emphasis on those for rankings. Like Sam Baird for instance – how he’s not staying on tour I do not know. I think he needs to get to the last 16 of the Worlds or something to stay on the tour. He was talking to me in Gloucester; he’s made 2 venues and he’s won 2 or 3 matches in virtually every other event and he’s not going to stay on tour because he’s not in the PTC list. Whereas people who have done rubbish in ranking events and have done well in the PTC get to stay. I think that’s ridiculous!
I can certainly see that point of view. I personally am a fan of the PTCs because…
No they are good, definitely but there’s too much emphasis on things. Too many ranking points. I know they’re trying to attract the better players on tour to keep entering because there’s more ranking points but at the end of the day you’ve got to give people who have done well in the main events due credit. I think it would be a travesty if Sam didn’t stay on tour this season after how well he’s played; all that hard work for nothing.
From a fan’s point of view which is where I’m coming from, I love the PTCs because you’ve got the pre-qualifying amateur rounds and then a flat 128 draw with all the players playing. I think that’s great for the game, but the ranking points issue obviously needs to be addressed.
Yeah I think that’s a really good idea and it gets people involved but you can’t put too much emphasis on it. I think it’s not fair on the players. Obviously you need to please the fans, but you need to please the players first.
Finally as a wrap, what do you like to do away from snooker?
Just spending time with my family, obviously the little one takes up a lot of my time. And if I can I like to play a little bit of golf.
Are you any good?
I’m ok, I can hit the ball! They go pretty straight, but not that far! The best I’ve had is 9 over for 9 holes.
That’s pretty good! Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed and best of luck in Q School and the future.
Reanne is managed by and can be contacted through OnQ Promotions.