Rebecca Kenna is hoping this month’s BetVictor World Mixed Doubles event in Milton Keynes can “inspire” a generation of young girls across the country to pick up a cue.
After a summer that saw England’s Lionesses roar, a historic first Tour de France Femmes click into gear and England’s hockey stars strike gold at the Commonwealth Games, snooker is ready to take centre stage.
For the first time, the four women on the World Snooker Tour will be playing live on ITV. The event also marks 40 years since the network broadcast the inaugural World Doubles Championship back in 1982.
“It’s just so fantastic that it’s on the main ITV channel because I never saw any women playing snooker on TV growing up,” said Kenna. “If I’d have seen women playing in a mixed doubles event with the world’s top four, as a five-year-old, I would have gone, ‘wow, I want to do that now!’ It’s a great incentive to see us on there. Hopefully, it does inspire some young girls to become professional snooker players and get the chance to play alongside those greats on live TV.
“There’s also going to be a great incentive to join the women’s tour and get into that top four. And you never know, it might grow to a top eight and top 16. The tour might grow hugely from this and get more sponsorship, more players, better quality. Everything can then go in the right direction.”
Kenna will partner four-time World Champion Mark Selby for the event, in what she described as a “perfect” duo. But it won’t be the first time she has played in a team. Born in Keighley, just outside of Bradford, Kenna regularly played at The Liberal Club as a young girl with her dad by her side. Now 33, she hopes to lean on these experiences.
“My dad was actually a big fan of Mark Selby. He unfortunately passed away in 2015. So it would have been really nice for him to see this. But, I hope he’s watching somewhere,” she said.
“We used to play at club level and we never got nervous playing. But when he played with me, he’d say, ‘I’m a bit nervous, I wanna play well for you.’ And I’d say, ‘just relax, there’s no point in being stressed about it.’ So there is no point putting pressure on yourself or anyone else because there are other pressures. People watching on TV, people watching at home and in the crowd. If you have any external pressures on your shot, you’re not going to play very well. You just need to relax and play your own game.”
Kenna heads into the event with momentum. A run to the final at the recent US Women’s Open in Seattle saw the women’s world number four not drop a frame in six matches before coming unstuck in the final against Jamie Hunter, losing 4-1.
While Kenna admits she didn’t deserve anything other than finishing second in the final, she enjoyed the experience of playing Stateside.
“I loved Seattle,” she said. “There was a really good quality stream, with a commentator. People watching could get involved and talk back to us, they even had some players on commentary. They did really well trying to advertise it over there and it grew some new interest. Hopefully, more clubs might start to put snooker tables in their areas and not just play pool. But it was a really good experience. I hope we can go back in the future.”
Just over two weeks have passed since Kenna returned from across the pond. A quick scan of her internal to-do list and she remembers she needs to check in on her shop, Cue Sports Yorkshire. Amongst practising, securing another sponsor and picking up a new car, Kenna found the time to make the journey down the M1 to meet the Jester from Leicester himself.
For the tournament, the rules state each player will take alternate visits to the table, rather than alternate shots, and Kenna admits the tactical side of the game is something she and Selby have discussed.
“We’re not going to overthink it with who’s following who,” said Kenna. “We’re just going to play our own game and hopefully do well. You’ve got to take your chances and play the right shots.
“The four men are all legends. And obviously, we know that they can score so heavily. So it might be on my mind that I don’t want to leave anyone anything. I don’t want to give them a sniff, because that might be the end of the frame. So I’ll be trying to pick out the best shot to play. If I’m in, try score, and if there isn’t a shot on, try play the best safety I can.”
Witness the world’s best male and female snooker players team up on the big stage, including Kenna and Selby. The event runs from September 24th to 25th in Milton Keynes. Click here to get your tickets now.