Ken Doherty survived a scare before seeing off 10-time ladies world champion Reanne Evans 10-8 in the opening qualifying round for the World Championship on Thursday.
The 1997 Crucible champion began nervously and found himself trailing 3-1 at the first mid-session interval as Evans took advantage of her big opportunity to promote women’s snooker.
However, Doherty responded and led by a single frame after the end of the morning session – a narrow advantage he would manage until the game’s conclusion.
At 9-8 down, Evans looked as though she was going to force what would have been a thrilling decider only to see her more experienced opponent gain the snooker he required with only the pink and black left on the table.
Doherty subsequently potted the two balls to progress into the second round, where he’ll meet Lee Walker.
Much was made about Evans’ appearance prior to the contest at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, but arguably it was Doherty who was feeling more of the pressure in a match almost everyone expected him to prevail in comfortably.
It hasn’t been a good season for the six-time ranking event winner and his lack of form showed with some poor shot selection and execution throughout.
Yet, he’ll simply be relieved to get over the winning line and can now look ahead with two more victories required to reach the main venue.
For Evans, her safety probably let her down but she by no means disgraced herself – indeed, had she gotten into the 19th frame who knows what would have happened.
Doherty’s next opponent Walker, a former quarter-finalist, denied a potential all-Ireland clash as he came from behind to pip Kilkenny’s David Morris in the qualifying tournament’s first decider.
In a topsy-turvy affair, Morris trailed 3-0 before winning six on the spin, including a 140 total clearance, to lead 6-3.
Morris extended that to 8-5 but, as the frames became more scrappy with most going down to the final colours, Walker regained the upper hand and fought back to force the final frame – which he dominated to march into the next round just shy of 2am.
It will be huge disappointment for Morris, who many felt had a good chance of a maiden World Championship appearance this season.
Elsewhere on a busy second day in Sheffield, there weren’t too many shocking scorelines to write home about.
Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo easily overcame 1995 runner-up Nigel Bond 10-3, with the latter now hoping that results will go his way in order to stay inside the world’s top 64 in the rankings.
The only other lower ranked player to oust a bigger name was Jak Jones, with the Welshman knocking out India’s hope Aditya Mehta 10-7.
Meanwhile, former world champion Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott enjoyed routine enough triumphs while two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens beat Qatari Ahmed Saif 10-5.
While the first final frame shoot-out came well past midnight between Walker and Morris, China’s Yu Delu was long back in his hotel relaxing after a whitewash 10-0 success over Belgian amateur Hans Blanckaert.
There was some chatter on Twitter yesterday about the merits of some of the players invited to make up the numbers in the draw.
It seems as though performances throughout the season by amateurs have been sacrificed at the expense of geographical diversity in an effort to promote the game globally.
There are arguments to be made for both cases but World Snooker’s approach is understandable, as they must try to instill interest in new countries by any means necessary.