The world of snooker is famed for its legendary rivalries — Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins v Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis, and Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White v Stephen ‘Iceman’ Hendry, to identify two.
But right this moment, all eyes shall be on Mark ‘The Pistol’ Allen and his first spherical adversary in the British Open at Leicester’s Morningside Arena — none aside from 12-time ladies’s snooker world champion Reanne Evans, aka ‘The Ex’.
For not solely will this be a crowd-pleasing Battle of the Sexes in a male-dominated sport — the place ladies have solely just lately been allowed to compete at the high degree with males — there may very well be a bit personal score-settling to add to the frisson of rivalry.
Former romantic companions, the pair cut up acrimoniously in 2008 after three years collectively. But stories of a dispute over youngster upkeep for his or her daughter, who’s now aged 14, have left already frosty relations between Allen and Evans, each 35, ice chilly.
Evans — who struggles to earn a residing from snooker and received simply £6,000 prize cash for claiming her twelfth ladies’s world championship in 2019 — is reported to be searching for a rise in the youngster upkeep Allen pays.
But right this moment, all eyes shall be on Mark ‘The Pistol’ Allen (pictured) and his first spherical adversary in the British Open at Leicester’s Morningside Arena — none aside from 12-time ladies’s snooker world champion Reanne Evans, aka ‘The Ex’
This may very well be tough as Northern Irishman Allen — who’s ranked twelfth in the world and has earned an estimated £3.3 million in snooker prize cash — is at the moment in the course of of getting divorced from spouse Kyla McGuigan and declared himself bankrupt in May this yr. (The couple, who married in 2013, even have a daughter.)
So that is a cue for some very awkward moments right this moment.
‘I truthfully do not suppose there has ever been a scenario fairly like this in sport ever at the high degree,’ says Shaun Murphy, the world quantity 5. ‘Some individuals who aren’t snooker followers might tune in to watch the automobile crash unfold.’
Relations between Allen and Evans got a blast of chilly air in April at the World Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, after Allen demanded that Evans — then working as a pundit for the BBC — be thrown out of a TV studio adjoining to his observe desk as a result of her presence was a ‘distraction’.
Event organisers controversially complied, and Evans, who might solely return to the studio shortly earlier than occurring air, was mentioned to have been left feeling upset and ’embarrassed’ by the episode.
Allen later mentioned of the furore: ‘There have been instances of gamers asking for individuals to be eliminated once they’re practising forward of a match. I’m unsure why there’s such a fuss about this one.’
No surprise, then, that right this moment’s face-off throughout the inexperienced baize is broadly seen as a grudge match — with a capital ‘G’.
For not solely will this be a crowd-pleasing Battle of the Sexes in a male-dominated sport — the place ladies have solely just lately been allowed to compete at the high degree with males — there may very well be a bit personal score-settling to add to the frisson of rivalry. Pictured: Reanne Evans
Former romantic companions, the pair cut up acrimoniously in 2008 after three years collectively. But stories of a dispute over youngster upkeep for his or her daughter, who’s now aged 14, have left already frosty relations between Allen and Evans, each 35, ice chilly. Pictured: Mark Allen and Reanne Evans with their daughter in 2007
Evans, who was awarded an MBE in 2020, is one of the first ladies to play on the primary British Open tour; her No 1 rating earned her a two-year skilled card on the tour, together with Hong Kong participant Ng On-yee.
Her inclusion, nevertheless, didn’t go down significantly effectively together with her ex, who at the time sniffed: ‘I’m not likely certain what the two ladies are going to deliver.’
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, insisted that each gamers ‘had supplied reassurances that ought to they meet in a event they’d conduct themselves professionally, and deal with the opponent like some other participant’.
Even so, there have been gasps of astonishment when it was introduced that the exes had been pitted in opposition to one another in right this moment’s first spherical, with some speculating that Allen would possibly even withdraw from the tour fully reasonably than face his former lover throughout the desk.
So one can solely think about the added psychological stress on each, as they chalk up their cues to compete in what shall be a historic match in additional methods than one.
Last evening, Allen was the clear favorite to win at odds of 80-1 on, with Evans at 14-1. But given the strained relations between the pair, Britain’s finest girl snooker participant should absolutely have an additional incentive to show some extent.
Reanne Evans, 35, who’s a file 12-times ladies’s world champion, is about to battle Mark Allen who’s the father of her youngster
If not to her ex, then maybe to six-time world champion Steve Davis, who in 2014 advised the BBC World Service’s Sports Hour that ladies lacked ‘that single-minded dedication in one thing that should be mentioned is a whole waste of time — attempting to put snooker balls into pockets with a pointed stick’.
Evans, who was seven-and-a-half months pregnant together with her daughter when she received her first ladies’s world champion title, successful simply £800 in contrast with the males’s £200,000 prize pot, won’t agree — and says it stays her dream to qualify to play in a World Snooker Championship at the Crucible someday.
Of that first main event win, she recalled: ‘Well, the bump was fairly giant however the docs mentioned if I felt all proper there was no motive why I could not play. A number of pictures had been awkward. I might solely simply attain to break off! By the finish my legs swelled up and I used to be fully shattered.’
Certainly, right this moment’s match between the exes shall be the first time Allen and Evans — who says she grew up in a snooker-loving family — have performed in opposition to one another since happier days of outdated when, as a younger couple, they used to practise collectively.
In an interview with the Mail in 2007, Evans, from Dudley in the West Midlands, talked about how robust it was to make a residing as a lady in the sport and how her then accomplice, Mark, supported her ambitions.
While males’s snooker has attracted large sponsorship cash and TV offers, ladies’s snooker has at all times been the poor relation combating for recognition.
‘I’m fortunate with Mark, he helps maintain my spirits up. Sometimes it is so laborious to be motivated, you are feeling such as you’re banging your head in opposition to the wall. We do practise collectively, and, sure, I’ve overwhelmed him,’ mentioned Evans.
Allen later added: ‘We’re each actually aggressive. Whenever we play one another as boyfriend and girlfriend we take it very critically.
‘I believe Reanne will admit I’ve overwhelmed her extra instances, however I’m not embarrassed to admit it, she has overwhelmed me!
‘She at all times lets me bear in mind it and winds me up, however we will each have fun about it.’
Whoever wins right this moment’s match, it might appear a certain wager neither shall be laughing, given the difficulties that adopted their cut up 13 years in the past.
Evans has spoken of the monetary wrestle as a single mom to attain the high of ladies’s snooker as an beginner. She as soon as mentioned: ‘I’ve received the girls’ world title for the previous 9 years and obtained nearly nothing for it. The easy query was, can I maintain occurring like this, incomes no cash?’
Meanwhile, Allen has talked of the melancholy he suffered after their break-up, exacerbated by the pressures of skilled snooker and the lengthy excursions that prevented him from seeing their daughter as a lot as he would have appreciated.
‘Speaking to a psychiatrist, I realised it has been coming for a very long time for me,’ Allen mentioned after a World Championship comeback match ended a run of disappointing leads to 2011. ‘It’s solely actually come to the fore in the final couple of months however no less than now I’m attempting to take care of it.
‘On and off the desk I’m a fighter and I do not need to surrender on my life as a result of it should have an effect on all the pieces. I used to be attempting to shrink back from it, closing up as a substitute of opening up which I ought to have finished. I’m beginning to realise you possibly can’t shut up.
‘The difficulties involved with our daughter are half of it, not a pleasant half of it however one thing that I’ve had to take care of. Obviously with me and Reanne not being collectively I knew I wasn’t going to see her as a lot however I did not realise it was going to be as laborious as it’s.’
There is little question that snooker followers won’t ever have seen a match fairly like this one. Allen shall be in a single tense nook, whereas Evans shall be in hers. Each can have their supporters, however the large query is: who will their daughter need to win?
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