FOUR MORE FOR THE BIG SCORE
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
Photos Courtesy of Richard Walker
(Doha, Qatar)--After a marathon day of pressure packed championship pool played at the highest levels, Taiwan’s Chang Yu Lung, the Netherlands Niels Feijen, Austria’s Albin Ouschan, and the Philippines Elmer D. Haya all barged into the semi-finals of the 2014 World 9-ball Championship in Doha.
Both semi-finals feature east vs. west scenarios. In one race to eleven, alternate break match, Chang will lock horns with Albin Ouschan. In the other semi, which will be played concurrently, Feijen will do battle with Haya. Both matches will begin at 1:30pm Doha time(GMT +3). The final will be a race to 13, alternate break and will begin at 5pm.
After the surprise elimination of six world champions, along with several other big names the day before in the round of 64, the race to pool’s crowning glory began the day perhaps more wide open than it has been in years. With the field being whittled down from 32 to just four all in one day, the scenarios and possibilities ranged wildly; would an improbable name emerge to suddenly snatch the crown? Or would a familiar name step up to make sure everything remained as it should be in the pool universe.
In the end, after nearly 12 hours of drama, action, crushing pressure and amazing perseverance, we ended up with a little bit of both.
Based upon level of play in recent week, throughout the tournament, and especially today, Taiwan’s Chang Yu Lung has to be considered the betting favorite to hoist the trophy come Friday evening. The 33 year old from the southern Taiwan city of Tainin has been one of the sports hottest players lately. Just two weeks back he won the brutally tough China Open in Shaghai, one of pool’s biggest events.
Chang lost his first match in group play here in Doha, but since then, he’s been untouchable. Today Chang first came out and handily took down France’s Stephen Cohen. He then met up with 2005 World 9-ball Champion Wu Jiaqing in the round of 16. The two engaged in a super high quality affair, trading amazing shots, difficult pots, brilliant safeties with neither one giving an inch. The match went down to a final nervy safety battle, with Chang getting the last laugh and the victory, 11-10.
Chang then headed for the TV table in a showdown with the USA’s Shane Van Boening. The American carried the hopes of his nation right on his shoulders and looked the goods earlier in the day with two impressive wins. Chang, however, continued on unabated with machine like precision and confidence. Van Boening had no answer and found himself down 10-4. The American fought back off of several mistakes, but Chang held on to advance, 11-8.
When seen in the light of his recent performance in China, Chang is emerging as one of the games most talented players. He plays fearlessly and has the tools to back it up. Chang says his skills come from his regular sparring sessions with other Taiwan greats like Ko Pin Yi and Chang Jung Lin. He also learns relaxation skills from a sports psychologist that helps several Taiwan players.
“I have many good training partners and that helps a lot,” Chang said through an interpreter. “And that makes me more confident. And when I feel pressure, I just tell myself to breath, relax and calm down.”
Should Chang go on to win on Friday he will take Taiwan’s first world 9-ball crown since Wu won it in 2005.
Chang will surely go into his semi-final with Ouschan as the favorite. Pool fans knew Ouschan as an up and coming talent out of Europe but hardly anyone would have predicted he’d have made it this far in a world championship at this stage in his young career. But the 23 year old Austrian surprised everyone today with three gritty come from behind performances that could give him the confidence to pull off a surprise on Friday.
After first coming from the rear to beat the Czech Republic’s Roman Hybler, the Austrian took on the Philippines Antonio Gabica, who lives in Qatar and coaches the national team, in the final 16. With the crowd squarely against him, Ouschan hardly looked comfortable and he trailed throughout. Down 10-7 it looked dark days. But a late mistake by Gabica was all Ouschan needed to start his engine and he clawed his way back and won a thriller, 11-10.
“When I was down 10-7,” Ouschan said, “I was sitting in my chair and I was saying to myself, ‘just make one or two mistakes and I will take you down. I was so nervous those last few racks.”
The emotionally exhausted Austrian then headed off for a match with China’s Li He Wen. Again Ouschan fell behind and again he gutted out the dark patches and bided his time until the tide turned. He won the match 11-8.
Afterward, Oushcan revealed he arrived in Doha playing some of the best pool in his life.
“Back in Austria I was training for this tournament and I was playing amazing pool, like I’ve never played in my life.”
The youngster will surely have to keep that streak going if he wants to conquer the challenge that is Chang on Friday.
If it wasn’t for Chang’s downright clinical performances today, Feijen would surely be on the level as a favorite to take the title. The Dutchman logged a workman like performance on Thursday and his game reflected his growing confidence that has been so evident over the last few months.
Feijen first took down Polish veteran Radislaw Babica, 11-6. He then handily beat Austria’s Mario He, 11-6. In the quarter finals, Feijen came up against the Philippines Carlo Biado, who had emerged from the carnage of the round of 64 as a favorite to go all the way. But Feijen doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game and several mistakes by the Filipino were quickly punished. Feijen won without being touched, 11-7.
Afterwards, an obviously delighted Feijen talked of his pride in having worked so hard over the last few years and how that has started to pay dividends. After an already brilliant 17 year career in the game, the Dutchman stands on the cusp of his greatest triumph to date.
“I’m thrilled,” Feijen said. “I worked really hard for the last two years. I’m just doing everything right. I stepped up my practice a little bit more. I’m winning a lot of tactical battles and that’s bringing me out of a lot of difficult spots when guys are coming back at me. That’s winning me more games than before which is huge.
“The last three years I never got past the final 64 here. And now I finished the whole day here. I knew it was going to be a long day. To make it to the final day in any major tournament, then you’re part of the elite. We started with 128 monsters and after just a few days we’re down to just four guys. So you’re damn right I’m proud.
“Tomorrow I’m just going to keep it simple. Try to keep it easy. You don’t have to play like Michael Jordan all of the sudden. Just keep doing the same thing that you’ve been doing. Keep my composure, patience, and execute. Don’t think about the games or the wins, just execute. “
Feijen’s opponent Haya is easily the biggest surprise entry into the semi-finals of the World 9-ball championship in some years. He also has quite the feel-good story to back him up. The 37 year old Filipino toils away in obscurity as the house pro at the Joy Billiard Club in Abu Dhabi, all to feed his wife and five kids back in the Philippines. Haya paid his own way to Doha, entered the brutally difficult qualifiers and emerged with a hard won spot in the main field.
Haya played brilliantly throughout the day in each of his three 11-8 victories, first beating Japan’s Hijikata Hayato and then fellow Filipinos Raymund Faraon, and Johann Chua. The 22 year old sharp shooting Chua had earlier defeated Qatari upstart Waleed Majid, who had previously upset Darren Appleton. Haya, though, stopped Chua in his tracks.
If the Filipino somehow manages to go all the way on Friday, it will be the biggest upset and surprise win in the history of the World 9-ball Championship.
Semi-Finals Friday, June 27th, 1:30PM Doha(GMT +3)
Neils Feijen(NED) vs. Elmer D. Haya(PHL)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) vs. Albin Ouschan(AUT)
Friday, June 27th, 5pm Doha(GMT+3)
**The 2014 World 9-ball Championship takes place at the Al Saad Sports Club in Doha, Qatar from June 16-27. The winner of the 2014 World 9-ball Championship will receive $30,000. The runner up will receive $15,000. The total prize fund is $200,000.
The players will be competing on Wiraka New Model Tables with Simonis 860 Cloth, Electric Blue Color and using Aramith Super Pro TV Balls.
The Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation, which is once again hosting and organizing the World 9-ball Championship, will be providing free live streaming of the entire tournament on its website, http://live.qbsf.qa/.
To view the brackets please CLICK HERE
The WPA will be on hand in Doha throughout this year’s World 9-ball Championship providing up to the minute information, live scoring, photographs and in depth articles with insights and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner.
Fans can interact with us through the WPA’s official Facebook Page for the event at this link;https://www.facebook.com/wpaworld9ballchampionship
The WPA is also on Twitter; @poolwpa
For more information you can also visit the WPA website at www.wpapool.com. Fans can also visit the website of the Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation at; www.qbsf.qa
*The 2014 World 9-ball Championship will be held in Doha, Qatar from June 16-27,2014 and is sanctioned by the World Pool & Billiard Association(WPA), the world governing body of the sport of pocket billiards. 128 players from across the globe will compete for the most prestigious prize in Men’s Pool. The 2014 World 9-ball Championship is a WPA ranking event.
Elmer D. Haya(PHL) 11 – 7 Johann Chua(PHL)
Neils Feijen(NED) 11 – 7 Carlo Biado(PHL)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) 11 – 8 Shane Van Boening(USA)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 11 – 8 Li He Wen(CHN)
RESULTS FINAL 16
Elmer D. Haya(PHL) 11 – 8 Raymund Faraon(PHL)
Johann Chua(PHL) 11 – 8 Waleed Majid(QAT) vs
Neils Feijen(NED) 11 – 6 Mario He(AUT)
Carlo Biado(PHL) 11 – 7 Ko Pin Yi(TPE)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) 11 -10 Wu Jiaqing(CHN)
Shane Van Boening(USA) 11 – 5 Tohru Kuribayashi(JPN)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 11 -10 Antonio Gabica(PHL)
Li He Wen(CHN) 11 – 7 Nick Van Den Berg(NED)
RESULTS FINAL 32
Raymund Faraon(PHL) 11 – 7 Wang Can(CHN)
Elmer D. Haya(PHL) 11 – 8 Hijikata Hayato(JPN)
Waleed Majid(QAT) 11 – 9Darren Appleton(GBR) vs.
Johann Chua(PHL) 11 – 5 Konstantin Stepanov(RUS)
Mario He(AUT) 11 – 10 Jeong Young Hwa(KOR)
Neils Feijen(NED) 11 – 6 Radoslaw Babica(POL)
Carlo Biado(PHL) 11 – 5 Jason Klatt(CAN)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 11 – 10 Naoyuki Oi(JPN)
Wu Jiaqing(CHN) 11 – 10 Hsu Kai Lun(TPE)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) 11 – 6 Stephan Cohen(FRA)
Shane Van Boening(USA) 11 – 4 Dang Jing Hu(CHN)
Tohru Kuribayashi(JPN) 11 – 9 Nick Ekonomoupolos(GRE)
Antonio Gabica(PHL) 11 – 6 Ryu Seung Woo(KOR)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 11 – 9 Roman Hybler(CZE)
Li He Wen(CHN) 11 – 8 Mar Teutshcer(NED)
Nick Van Den Berg(NED) 11 – 7 Ramiel Gallego(PHL)