Story and Photo by Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)–Day time temperatures reach over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, (44 celcius) here in Doha, Qatar but with a bevy of the world’s best pool players on hand to contest the sport’s most prestigious title, the action this week inside the glittering Al Sadd Sports club promises to make the searing outside air seem downright chilly.

128 of the finest pool talents from 44 countries have arrived and settled in here in one of the Middle East’s most progressive countries, all ready for what are sure to be brutally intense and highly dramatic battles ahead, as the World Pool Association World 9-ball Championship gets set to begin Saturday at 12 noon(GMT +3). The tournament will run daily through July 1.

This will be the second year in a row that the World 9-ball championship has been held in Qatar.. The country is pegged to host the World 9-ball champion through 2014. The prize fund this year is $250,000 with $36,000 going to the winner.

Although the atmosphere tonight for the players meeting and tournament draw inside the Diamond ballroom of the Holiday Villa hotel was convivial and light, one easily sensed the nervous anticipation from the gathered throng of great cue artists. And for good reason. The World 9-ball Championship is widely considered pool’s most prestigious title. It is the longest running event in the 21 year history of the WPA. Winning the World 9-ball Championship assures any player of a spot in the pantheon of the greats of the sport.

Just ask Defending champion Franciso “Django” Bustamante of the Philippines.  Up until winning the 9-ball crown last year in Doha, Bustamante had carved out one of the greatest careers the sport of pool has ever seen. But he had never won a world championship. When he pocketed the 9-ball on the break in the 20th rack in the finals against Taiwan’s Kuo Po Cheng, the Filipino star cemented his legacy as one of pool’s all time greats.

Bustamante is well aware, though, that back to back world titles are a rarity in pool. In fact, since the USA’s Earl Strickland won the 1990 and 1991 world championships, no player has managed to repeat this feat.  And one glance at the awesome talent gathered tonight in Doha is all one needs to understand why. Along with Busti, eight other former World 9-ball champions have staked a spot in this year’s event. They include; Oliver Ortmann(1995), Ralf Souquet(1996), Efren Reyes(1999), Mika Immonen(2001) Thorsten Hohmann(2003), Wu Chia Ching(2005), Ronnie Alcano(2006), and Daryl Peach(2007). (see photo above)

The field this year is stacked with plenty of other world champions and great players from around the globe as well. These include former World 10 ball champion and current US Open champion Darren Appleton of the UK, current World Ten Ball Champion Huidji See of the Netherlands, current World 8-ball champion Dennis Orcullo of the Philippines, former World 8-ball champion Karl Boyes of the UK, perennial contender Kuo Po Cheng of Chinese-Taipei, recent Beijing Open winner Chang Jun Lin, Canada’s rising star Jason Klatt, the Philippines hot young star Carlo Biado, recent China Open winner Chris Melling of the UK, China’s Fu Jan Bo, Japan’s Yukio Akakagariyama, the Netherlands Neils Feijen and Nick Vandenberg.

And while fans around the world tend to go with bets on known quantities, part of the fun of the World 9-ball championship is that each and every year produces plenty of surprise results and newcomers who take the pool world by storm.  Who will it be this year? The next few days will reveal the answers.

The tournament begins with players separated 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.

This year players will be competing on notoriously difficult Diamond pool tables.  The American company recently signed on as one of the tournament’s official sponsors.

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.

The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) is the international governing body for pocket billiards. The WPA is also one of the three member organizations of the World Confederation of Billiards Sports (WCBS), representing the billiard disciplines of pool, snooker and carom. The WCBS is the international umbrella organization that is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

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