Reanne Evans 'devastated' after being edged out by Ken Doherty in World Championship thriller
Reanne Evans gave Ken Doherty a major fright but her bid to become the first woman to qualify for the World Championship ended in valiant defeat on Thursday.
The 29-year-old mother-of-one from Dudley was handed a discretionary place in the 128-strong field of players bidding to join the sport's leading stars at the Crucible, after winning 10 consecutive ladies' world titles.
A shock outcome looked on the cards when Evans led 3-1 and 4-3 in the early stages at the Ponds Forge venue in Sheffield, a short walk from snooker's most famous venue.
However 1997 world champion Doherty recovered to nudge ahead 5-4 by the end of the morning session and, despite Evans making it tense, the Dubliner returned in the evening to complete a 10-8 victory.
Absolutely devastated gave it one big fight not playing at my best.thanks everyone for support can't believe it #amazing— reanne evans (@evans_reanne) April 9, 2015
The 45-year-old must still battle through two more rounds to reach the first-round stage of the main event, but for Evans the quest is over.
Bowing out means Evans can play in the Ladies' World Championship in Leeds, which begins on April 17, but she has won that title in each of the last 10 years and was keen to prove herself against the elite men.
Drawing Doherty in the first round meant she tackled an opponent unlikely to suffer an attack of nerves, which can afflict players of limited experience once the Crucible comes into sight. It was arguably as tough an assignment as she might have faced.
Once Doherty inched in front at the halfway point, he might have been expected to pull away, but when Evans was at the table in the 16th frame she seemed set to level at eight frames each.
She led by 50 points but Doherty battled his way back, and took a crucial frame to lead 9-7.
Since losing in the first round to Liang Wenbo in 2008, the popular Irishman has qualified in alternate years. Were that sequence to continue he would miss out this time.
Evans ensured his jitters only increased by pulling it back to 9-8 and then leading 52-17 at one point when she looked destined to take it to a deciding frame.
Doherty fought back to 44-52, but a miss on the brown set up a topsy-turvy game of brinkmanship that Evans seemed to be edging at 61-50, before Doherty summoned a successful snooker on the pink and snatched the frame 63-61.
"It was a struggle, the whole game was scrappy but I just dug in there," Evans told the World Snooker website. "I'm happy to have stuck in there with a player who has been world champion and has so much experience, and to have given him a fright.
"I'm not used to playing these long matches so it's good experience for me.
"From the start I could see that he was under it, he was twitching a bit. I just couldn't manage to take control of the match.
"I didn't play my best today, I just scrapped and fought all the way. There's no reason why I can't beat people like Ken if I play a bit better.
"If I could play in events like this more often, you never know. The ladies game is very different. I've got to take the positives.
"If it had gone 9-9 I think I would have won. I felt really good out there, although there were a few nerves. I just kept losing position because I'm not used to the tables."