Serena Williams inspires Reanne Evans to storm male bastion

Pioneer looks to tennis in battle against prejudice and financial hardship

Reanne Evans will make snooker history tomorrow morning by becoming the first woman ever to play at a major tournament. Surprisingly, perhaps, the 27-year-old from Dudley has revealed that she derived the inspiration to pursue her career from the American tennis legend Serena Williams.

The nine-time women’s world champion takes on Chinese teenager Zhu Yingui at the Wuxi Classic in the home city of the former UK and Masters champion Ding Junhui. Like her role model, Evans has had to overcome significant obstacles before she achieved her breakthrough 5-4 win last month over Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in a preliminary round in the UK to put her on the plane to China.

Evans, who had a daughter, Lauren, with the Northern Ireland professional Mark Allen – they split up in 2008 – was once banned from playing in a club in the West Midlands simply for being a woman.

She failed to win a match on her only previous season on the main men’s tour three years ago. And she was almost forced to give up on her dream and seek another job after taking home just £400 for winning her last world title, in April.

Yet Evans, who took up the sport as a 13-year-old, refused to head for the United States and the relatively easier pickings to be had on the lucrative women’s pool circuit, a path chosen by former standard-bearer Allison Fisher in the 1990s. Evans has now earned a career-high £3,000 for getting to China.

She says Williams displays the fortitude she admires and needs to pursue her own career. The  16-time Grand Slam winner came from a similarly humble background and faced discrimination early in her career.

“I love tennis and Serena Williams is an absolute genius,” said Evans. “Everything about her, her attitude, and the way she goes about her business. She has had lots of highs and lows – big injuries, and drops in confidence along the way. But she still comes back and wins all the majors.

“I think she is perfect mentally to be able to do that, and has a really good head on her shoulders to come back from all the bad times. She got fined, of course, as well, and the family have not had it easy on their way up, they have had to cope with a lot of things, including family tragedy [the shooting of Williams’s sister Yetunde Price in 2003].

“I just think people who have overcome those kinds of hurdles deserve it more and it means more to them and those close to them. If it is all on a plate for you, then you don’t try so hard and maybe it doesn’t mean as much.”

Some small gloss was taken off Evans’s achievement in reaching the main draw of 64 at Wuxi. She was due to play the current world No 1, Neil Robertson, but then became one of four unlucky players to be drawn to play an extra game, in her case against the 17-year-old wild card Zhu.

If she beats him she will then take on the former world champion, a match-up that would perhaps be more fitting given the ground-breaking circumstances.

When Fisher was beating male opponents in invitation and exhibition events 20 years ago, one or two could not hide their disappointment. But Evans insists that she has been warmly welcomed by her rivals on the circuit, and says that any hostility she faces now comes from social media. “I have had a few nasty things said to me via Twitter and Facebook,” she says. “When I got given my place on the tour there was one lad who kept bombarding me with messages.

“It was, ‘You’re useless at snooker, you shouldn’t be playing, it’s a disgrace you have got the wild card [to take part in the 2010-11 season], Barry Hearn needs his head looking at’, and that kind of stuff.

“There were comments along the lines of, ‘She shouldn’t be on tour, she is only a woman, just because she can beat women doesn’t mean she can beat men.’

Evans is in a positive frame of mind, so she is prepared to come out fighting. “I don’t encounter much discrimination or prejudice now but I want women to get more recognition, and I have a big part to play in that.

“There has been overwhelming support for me from the other men players, and tour players like Alfie Burden and Michael Holt have said, ‘Go on, you have to give this a go’. They said I had to try and take that next step. I have, but I am not finished yet.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor