UK Championship: Ben Woollaston inspired by Tatiana

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Meet snooker's Mr and Mrs
UK Championship
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 24 November-6 December
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Ben Woollaston has no doubt he owes his steady climb up the world rankings to getting married.

Nor does his snooker referee wife Tatiana.

"I had never heard of him," she joked to BBC Sport. "When we met he was 70 or 80 in the world. I think it improved him a lot and has given him motivation. Maybe it inspired him.

"I am really proud of what he has achieved, I think family is really important for snooker players."

That initial meeting presented a problem for Belarusian Tatiana, who was refereeing at her first professional event.

Seeing the Woollaston name for first time at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany 2010 added to her nerves.

"I thought how do I say that - but it's now my surname. I had never heard of him but I was impressed with the way he played."

Ben Woollaston
Woollaston first turned professional in 2003

The 28-year-old from Leicester is not about to disagree with the idea his game has improved since they were married in 2011.

"I had not really done anything before then," said the world number 30. "She has definitely improved me; my form has been a lot better."

Woollaston double in Wales

Last season was something of a breakthrough for both of them.

Ben reached his first ranking event final, beating Mark Allen, Ali Carter and Mark Williams on his way to the final, where he lost to four-time world champion John Higgins.

And Tatiana refereed her first televised game at a ranking event while at the tournament in Cardiff.

But for Tatiana mixing a full-time job with being a snooker referee, and a mum to three-year-old Edward, is tricky. The chances are also limited because there are only a few full-time referees on the circuit.

"I would love to do it full time because I am really passionate about it but I cannot do as much as I would like," she explained.

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Her refereeing commitments are restricted to when she can book time off work, but having such a hectic life has not diminished her enthusiasm - something which Ben says helps him a great deal.

"It's really good that we are both in to snooker," he added. "It makes it much easier as a family to have a common interest. She understands I can be miserable for a few hours if we lose."

Woollaston is confident he can continue his improvement and make his mark on the game's elite, starting with the UK Championship in York.

He faces Steven Hallworth in his first-round match on Wednesday, but is expecting to go deep in to the tournament.

"I want to make the quarter-finals, but if I got that far I would be disappointed to go out," he said.

Best is yet to come

"My ambition is to win a big ranking event. I have already got to a final so there is no reason I could not go one step further.

"I have developed quite late in snooker terms but hopefully my best is yet to come. I have been much more consistent recently. My aim is to get in to the top 16 by next year and be close by the end of the year.

Tatiana is due to come up to York if Ben progresses beyond the first round. And the fact she is not refereeing may help her husband settle and increase his chances

"We have good memories from Cardiff, but I was more nervous watching her than playing," Ben added.