Mink Nutcharut is enjoying an immense 2022 having claimed the Women’s World Championship and World Mixed Doubles titles, turned professional and made the big move of swapping Thailand for South Yorkshire.
It has not been an overnight success for the 22-year-old, who won the Women’s World Under-21 Championship four years ago, but this has been her breakout year, and it is getting even better with a Champion of Champions debut this week.
Winning the World Mixed Doubles alongside Neil Robertson in front of a huge TV audience was a massive moment for Mink and one that she hopes stands her in good stead going forward.
‘I think I got a lot more experience,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘I can watch the top four players up close, remember their shots and learn a lot.
‘It’s different watching and being so near, and being there with Neil. It feels very different to play in teams, there’s more pressure. If I play with Ronnie behind me, it’s Ronnie! It’s not normal. But Neil was amazing, he’s too good!’
It was not going so well for Mink and Robertson on the opening day of that tournament, losing their first two matches, but they sprung into life on the Sunday, going all the way to the title with two fine wins.
‘I think it felt different on Sunday,’ she said. ‘The first day we’d never played together. Sunday we gelled and played for fun, didn’t worry. Before the final we go to have lunch and talked a little bit, but not about the game, just saying to play for fun.’
That Sunday saw Mink make a 74 clearance to win a frame which was of such quality that (at the time of writing) it has been viewed over 3 million times on Facebook.
‘Oh my God!’ Mink said of those figures. ‘It was very exciting, but I wanted to try and pot, not think too much.
‘After I played the break Neil said: “Wow! You can play, you have all the shots, too good!” I said to him: “Unbelievable!”
‘I have more confidence now, because I think I can play and can win. When I play with men, I think that if I play like I can, I can beat anybody.’
Mink is looking to gain experience this early in her career, trying to develop as a player on tour, but there is no doubt in her voice when she says she can beat anybody in the game.
‘I want to try my best, but I want to win,’ she said. ‘I want to win a tournament one day. It’s difficult for a woman, but it’s not that different. Men and women use the same things, use arms and legs. If I work hard I can beat anybody, when you play another player they cannot make you miss, it’s just you, yourself.’
The 22-year-old has already beaten one man in a professional game, downing Mitchell Mann 4-2 in Northern Ireland Open qualifying, but she is aiming for many more scalps, and a trip to the sport’s most famous arena.
‘My target…I am here because I want to learn and improve my snooker,’ she said. ‘My target is to win, beat the men more and more and more, not just one person.
‘My dream is to go to the Crucible. I went to watch and I thought, if I can play here there would be great pressure. Everyone is looking at you, it’s so quiet and it’s small. 1,000 people, two eyes, 2,000 eyes looking at you!’
Mink is not afraid to challenge herself, evidenced by the fact she has moved her life to Sheffield to compete on the World Snooker Tour with so little previous experience of playing professional players.
She is also clearly keen to test herself as another of her snooker dreams is to take on Ronnie O’Sullivan in a big match on TV.
‘A dream is to play with Ronnie in competition,’ she said. ‘I want to know how I feel and if I can play well against him or not.
‘I spoke to Ronnie after our Mixed Doubles game. He said good luck and if we get to the final he thinks we will win. He said that when he comes to Sheffield we can practice together.’
Mink has spent time with the Rocket before, travelling to his academy in Singapore over the summer, where she witnessed his brilliance first hand.
‘I missed one shot and he made a 147. Too good!’ Mink said. ‘But I enjoyed watching him play, he’s so smooth. I got experience playing with Ronnie, it was exciting a little bit but not too much, I could pot and not think too much.’
O’Sullivan is still a hero to players born in 1999 it seems, although the Rocket wasn’t the only player Mink liked watching back home in Thailand.
‘My favourite was Ronnie, he’s the best,’ she said. ‘I like style of Mark Selby, he’s too smart…and handsome. But I think the first one is Ronnie because he’s a god in snooker.’
When Mink won the Mixed Doubles she claimed £30,000 in prize money, by a long way the biggest cheque of her career, and she said immediately after the final that most of it would be sent to her family back in Thailand.
The women’s world champion is staying in Sheffield for much of the season, coming over to the UK alone this year to put everything into her snooker career.
With friends and family back in Thailand, she admits it is hard, although she hides it with a near-constant smile.
‘Yeah, I miss it too much, I don’t have anybody that came with me,’ she said of her home country. ‘But I call my mum every day. I want to make friends, we have lots of the Chinese players here, but some of their English is not good and I cannot talk Chinese, it’s too hard!
‘Lifestyle is wake up, go to practice, eat, practice, go back to your room. Then you wake up, go to practice…But I have the Thai people, so that’s ok.’
Thai star Noppon Saengkham is also based in Sheffield and has been a great help to Mink, while the icon Dechawat Poomjaeng is back on tour and also making things easier for her.
‘When I have practiced I go to eat dinner or lunch with Noppon and now Dechawat is here too. Noppon is at Ding’s Academy not here at Victoria’s, but we go to restaurants.
‘In January this year I came to stay for one month, I had Noppon to teach me how to stay here, how to use the train, how to go to other cities. He taught me a lot. Here the life is not difficult if you have money. It’s so expensive. Much more than Thailand. In Thailand, eating Thai food it would be £2, but here it would be £10. So expensive!
‘I love it here, but it’s very different from Thailand. A different life. In Thailand, Thai style is all the time. I can’t eat all day here, sometimes 6pm or 7pm places are closed, in Thailand you can eat whenever you want.’
Mink has been able to see some of the UK on her snooker journey, with a somewhat surprising city reminding her most of home.
‘I’ve been to Leicester to qualify,’ she explained. ‘I’ve been to Leeds, they have a temple. I’ve been to Manchester to the airport. Last week I went to Glasgow for the women’s tournament. I didn’t have time for travel too much, but Glasgow felt a bit like Thailand. I practiced and came out at 5pm, cars everywhere, too busy! But I thought, this is like Thailand!’
Mink is a pretty big deal back in Thailand, especially in her home town Saraburi, where her Women’s World Championship win was met with an amazing celebration and she even met the Prime Minister thanks to her deciding frame victory over Wendy Jans.
‘Yes, my home town offered big congratulations after the World Championship,’ Mink said. ‘For Thai snooker it was the first time to have a world champion.
‘It was on TV, I went to meet the Prime Minister of Thailand, it was big! I was surprised!’
Mink’s snooker journey started at 10 years old back in Saraburi, at a club where her mother worked, but it was not exactly love at first sight for the future world champ.
‘The first time I ever played I didn’t like it,’ she said. ‘I was very young and I wanted to play with my friends, I didn’t want to practice, just go to school and do things for fun.
‘But my father, he thinks a lot, he wants me to play and practice. He says [wagging her finger], “you practice, you practice because you have competition.” He can play, but not too good.’
She quickly became very good, though, and had made the only registered 147 break by a women before her 20th birthday.
‘When I go to play competitions a lot, when I started earning prize money I was very happy and I think, yeah this is my job and I want to work hard to do more because I wanted the money,’ she said. ‘The money for my family, that was motivation.’
Asked what she might have been doing as a career if she hadn’t discovered snooker, Mink has not even given it any thought, because thankfully, in her own words, she is too good.
‘If I didn’t play snooker I would have just studied, maybe at 24-25 I would know what I would do, but I don’t know what would have happened.
‘I think snooker is my life now, the experience, the money it gives me. This all seems too far for me, when I won the World Championship, it was my dream but I thought I would maybe have to be 24 or 25, but at 22, too good!’