Story and Photos by Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)– Do or die. Win or Walk. Sudden Death.

These are the phrases that  instill fear in professional pool players and, at the same time, grab the attention of fans who love the unique drama that tends to emanate  from the small blue pitch. And in this sport, where a roll of a ball even just a fraction of a millimeter can be lead to life changing turn of events, the sink or swim scenario can be downright cruel. And it can also be sheer joy.

With the losers brackets underway here on day two  at the World 9-Ball Championship in Doha, Qatar, the now or never scenario has already brought plenty of happiness, and a fair share of heartache as well.

Take Mark Gray. The 37 year old from Peterborough Cambridgeshire in the UK found himself in the losers bracket of his group of 8 by the slimmest of margins. Yesterday in the very first match of this year’s World 9-ball championship, he drew the legend, Efren Reyes of the Philippines. Gray was pumped to play the great Hall of Famer and he played like it too, jumping out to a 5-2 lead.  But in the end, Gray, despite playing near mistake free pool, lost a hill-hill thriller.

In today’s do or die match versus  Hungary’s Vilmos  Foldes on the losers side, Gray found himself down 7-2 in a the race to 9 alternate break match and staring at an early exit from the World Championship.  He was beside himself because he’d actually played good in both matches.

“I’m 7-2 down to Foldes and I’m thinking, ok here I go again,” Gray said. “I played alright. I only missed 2 balls and the luck goes against me. But I stuck in there.”

Indeed Gray clawed his way back into the match and as he began to close the score line on Foldes, suddenly the Hungarian was feeling the heat of elimination.

“He missed a few and I could see he(Foldes) was feeling the pressure,” he said. Gray sensed blood and went on to win the match 9-7, sending Foldes for the exits. Gray now will be back tomorrow for one more crack at the final 64.  He’s now had two matches with two unlikely turn of events. Afterwards he wasn’t sure if should feel elated or like a punching bag.

“I missed two pots against Efren and only two pots against Foldes and I’m hanging in there by a thread,” Gray said laughing. “Other guys have got easy draws, but I guess I should be happy just to still be alive.”

That’s the way it goes in the biggest tournament of them all, and in a game like 9-ball where just about anything can happen and it usually does. You have to take things one shot, one game at a time. One minute you’re facing elimination, the next you’re making a run at the title.

If he catches a gear, Gray certainly has the pedigree to go all the way. For others success at the World Championship is measured in much less lofty terms.  But the sheer joy of escaping in a world championship when all the chips are down is the same for the greats and the newcomers.

Lebanon’s Mohammad Ali Berjawi is playing in his first world championship. The 21 year old from Beirut lost easily yesterday to Canadian Chris Orme, 9-4. But he came back today in a sink or swim match and  found himself in a tight contest with Henriqu Correia of Portugal.  Tied at 8-8, Berjawi  got the table and coolly ran the last six balls. As the final 9 ball fell, he gave a small pump of his fist.

While Berjawi obviously has no chance to win the World Championship,  afterwards the joy of just surviving to play another day, a day that could see him move into the final 64 knockout stage in the biggest tournament in the world, was written all over his face.

“It would mean so much to me if I could get into the final 64,” Berjawi said. “It would mean so much for pool in Lebanon.”

Berjawi  said pool is very popular and growing in Lebanon, with almost 350 players in the national federation.  He said he’s the number one ranked 9-ball player, while his 20 year old brother, Mazen, who’s also playing in the World 9-ball championship, is the number one ranked 8-ball player.

Berjawi will be in another do or die match tomorrow at the Al Sadd Sports Club. One easily get’s the feeling that no matter what happens, he’ll love every minute of the experience.

The group stages continue Sunday evening at the Al Sadd Sports Club with two more sessions. The players have been divided into  16 groups of 8, playing a double elimination format, race to 9, alternate Beak. 4 qualifiers (2 from winner’s brackets and 2 from loser’s brackets) will advance into the final round of 64 players which is single elimination, race to 11, alternate Break.  The final will be a race to 13, alternate break.

The 2011 World 9-ball championship has $250,000 in prize money  on offer, with $36,000 going to the winner.  The tournament will run daily through July 1.

The WPA will be providing complete coverage of all the action from inside the Al Sadd Sports club throughout the tournament. Fans around the world can follow matches as they happen via our live scoring platform. The live scoring button can be seen on the front page of the WPA’s new and improved website, www.wpa-pool.com . There you can also see the brackets icon which will give you updated standings from each group and the knockout stage.

Fans can also get instant updates, insights and scores by following the WPA on Twitter.  Our Twitter user name is @poolwpa. You can go directly to our Twitter page at,  http://twitter.com/poolwpa.

In addition,  the WPA will be providing insights and analysis with articles posted several times daily on the WPA home page.

Complete results from sessions 1 and 2 on Day 2 of the World 9-ball championship are below.

Group L

Ronnie Alcano(PHL) 9 — 5  Hamzah Al Saeed(ERI)
Radoslaw Babica(POL) 9 — 8  Raymund Faron(PHL-UAE)
Mohammad Al Hazmi (SYR)9 –6  Nguyen Phuc Long(VIE)
Daryl Peach(GBR) 9 – 5  Keng Kwang Chan(SIN)

Group N        

Marlo He(AUT) 9 – 3  Lui Haitao(CHN)
Hsu Kai Lun(TPE) 9 –6 Khamis Obaidly(QAT)
Nick Van den Berg(NED)9 — 4 Omar Al Omari(KSA)
Francisco Sanchez Ruiz(ESP) 9 — 6 Mohamad Asfari(SYR)

Group O

Yukio Akakariyama(JPN) 9 — 8 Mohammed Al Bin Ali(QAT)
Alok Kumar(IND) 9 – 4 Desmond Goh Teck(SIN)
Niels Feijen(NED) 9 – 4  Tamoo Takano(JPN)
Sascha-Andrej Tege(GER) 9  – 0 Badr Al Hamdan(KSA)

Group P

Antonio Lining(PHL) 9—4 Liu Cheng Cheih
Ali Saeed(UAE) 9 –1 Ramiz Turulja(BAN)
Tohru Kuribayashi(JPN) 9 — 6 Oliver Ortmann(GER)
Carlo Dalmatin(CRO) 9 – 2 Taher Hussain(QAT)

Group A Losers Bracket

Mark Gray(GBR) 9 –7 Vilmos Foldes(HUN)
Mohanna Obaidly(QAT) 9 — 6 Andrew Kong(HKG)

Group B Losers Bracket

Ali Berjawi, Mohamad(LEB) 9  — 8 Henriqu Correia(POR)
Antonio Gabica(PHL) 9—4 Majed Al Zaab(UAE)

Group C Losers Bracket

Han Hao Xiang(CHN)9 –8 Jason Klatt(CAN)
Omaral Shaheeme( KUW) 9 – 6 Abdulmajed  Hussain

Group D Losers Bracket

Caneda Villamor(PHL) 9—1 Jon Grimley(NZL)
Scott Higgin(GBR) 9—8 Petri Makkonen(FIN)

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