2018 WORLD WOMEN'S SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP - THE BIG PREVIEW
Are we in store for the most competitive and highest quality World Women's Snooker Championship, ever?
It's the 36th edition, but the first time that the event will be played under the new World Snooker Federation (WSF) banner, which offers more opportunities to female cueists.
Entries from four continents will gather at the classy Dolmen Hotel in Malta this week chasing the title, a 6,000 Euros top prize, a spot at the Crucible qualifiers and additional bonuses as well.
The top eight players will win a place in the subsequent inaugural WSF Championship straight afterwards where there is yet more prize money, Crucible qualifying positions and even a professional tour card on offer.
THE BIG TWO
Two-time and reigning champion Ng On Yee is back to defend the title she dramatically captured in Singapore last year. The Hong Kong star has enjoyed further success this season with victories at the UK Championship and Eden Masters.
At the recent British Open, On Yee was confirmed as the new World Women's Number 1 player for the first time in her career – just rewards for claiming five tour titles in the space of 12 months. The 27-year-old also became the first player ever from Asia to take the position.
However, the pre-tournament favourite tag is still likely applied to 11-times World Champion Reanne Evans, the name On Yee replaced at the top of the rankings.
Like her fierce rival, England's Evans has lifted two further trophies this campaign; the Paul Hunter Women's Classic and the before mentioned British Open.
The landscape of the Women's game has certainly changed over the last 3/4 years. Defeat for Evans was virtually unheard of in any event; she owned the World Championship for 10 consecutive years from 2005-2014.
However, since On Yee's maiden World Championship success in 2015, there has been an ongoing saga for supremacy in the female game between the pair with several high-profile clashes. The first three finals of this season were contested by them (Evans won at the PHWC and then On Yee won at the UK and Masters)
However, there are plenty amongst the entry in Malta who pose significant threats to their dominance.
Belgium's Wendy Jans is a very welcome addition to this year's event. With a vast collection of major international accolades and achievements already to her name, the 34-year-old has the power to spoil the party and be victorious come the end.
Thailand has a proud snooker heritage and the future for Women's Snooker looks very promising there; representatives Nutcharat Wongharuthai and Warratthanun Sukritthanes have both made the trip and will be looking to do damage.
18-year-old Wongharuthai made her tour debut in Stourbridge last month at the British Open and performed brilliantly to reach the final before going down to Evans. On route, the teenager eliminated On Yee.
Four-time finalist Maria Catalano (England) will be hoping it's her time, whilst the ever-improving Rebecca Kenna – a semi-finalist in Toa Payoh twelve months ago, wants to go far again.
Laura Evans (Wales) and Suzie Opacic (England), the World Numbers 5 and 7 respectively, will both feature on the island too.
A COSMOPOLITAN CHAMPIONSHIP
As well as the championship visiting a new country, there will be a colorful, international feel to proceedings in Southern Europe.
In total, ten different flags will be raised – England, Wales, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Brazil and Australia.
Initial action will see the players split into six Round Robin Groups of four. Most of the well-known names have been kept apart, although there will be some tasty ties during these stages.
To view the groups, click here. The tables will be updated as the results go through.
The Championship begins on Wednesday...
The image above is courtesy of the WPBSA
Article written and published by Michael Day on the 11th March 2018