THE 9-BALL JEWEL IN THE DESERT IS HERE
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
If you like the very best in professional pool squaring off for ultimate supremacy on the felt pitch, then the next 11 days will be nothing short of Valhalla.
The 2013 World Pool-Billiards Association(WPA) World 9-ball Championship is set to kick off this week in steaming hot Doha, Qatar, and, judging by the current player list, this year’s event is shaping up to be the best one yet.
128 players from over 40 countries will descend upon Doha’s Al Arabi Sports Club looking to book their spot in the pool history books. But whoever finds themselves atop the winners’ platform hoisting pool’s biggest and most prestigious prize after the finals on September 13th, will have to contend with loads of pressure and drama along the way.
Defending champion and World number one Darren Appleton of Great Britain looks set to make a spirited defense of his title. Appleton won his first World 9-ball championship in June, 2012, with an incredible 13-12 win over China’s Li Hewen, in one of the most memorable and stirring finals ever witnessed in professional pool.
Up 11-3, Appleton was playing the match of his life and cruising to the title, with fans on the internet even congratulating the “new World Champion Darren Appleton.” Then inexplicably, however, the wheels slowly started to fall off Appleton’s game. With the score at 12-6, the Brit had four easy balls to the title, but over ran position. He then saw Li take six straight racks to force a one rack decider for the world title. Appleton had to sink a difficult jump shot to get an opening to the finish line. He did just that and celebrated wildly by jumping up on the table.
15 months on, Appleton has continued to perform at the highest levels of the game, as befits a number 1 ranked player. He says he is more than ready to be there when the trophy and check are handed out.
“Winning last year I kept going from where I left off really,” Appleton told the WPA recently. “Except for one month after I won last year I was mentally drained and couldn’t make a ball. But I got myself together and have been doing really well recently. I just won the gold medal at the World Games. That was massive. And it takes a lot of pressure off knowing that I’ve won a major tournament already this year. Recently I came in second at the World Straight Pool, where I broke the world record in the semi-final with a 200 ball run. So I’m hitting the ball pretty good. I’m looking forward to Doha. Mentally I’m in good shape. But you know in pool you never know. There is no guarantee. I’ve just got to play my game, hope I get a little bit of luck at the right time. But I feel confident I can do it again.”
The preliminary stages of the 2013 World 9-ball Championship actually start Monday, September 2 with the qualifier tournaments at the Al Arabi. Over 130 players have signed up to try to fill the last 12 spots in the main draw, which begins September 7th, also at the Al Arabi Sports Club. The qualifying tournaments are notoriously brutal, as the single elimination, race to 7 matches, combined with the talent from various parts of the globe all fighting for a crack at pool glory, make the odds of winning six or seven matches in one day very long indeed.
Those players fortunate enough to wins one of the 12 qualifiers, however, will be met with one of the strongest overall fields in recent memory. The list of players already qualified for the main draw reads like a veritable who’s who of greats from across the globe.
The Philippines looks set to make its usual splash. Leading the way for the Philippine contingent is world number 2 Dennis Orcollo, and world number 3 Lee Vann Corteza. Both players have been playing white hot pool in the last six months and are a threat to win any tournament they enter. Also joining Team Philippines is the young up and comer, Carlo Biado, the legend and 1999 World 9-ball Champion Efren “Bata” Reyes, and 2010 World 9-ball Champion Francisco Bustamante. Fans can expect a large Philippine squad as many Filipino pool pros, such as Antonio Gabica, have taken up residence in the Middle East where they work as pool teachers in local clubs and can easily enter the qualifying tournaments.
Almost all of the top 30 players in the world are confirmed to play in Doha. These include China’s Li Hewen(4), Hall of Famer Ralf Souquet(5) of Germany, Finland’s Mika Immonen(6), Karl Boyes(7) of Great Britain, and three greats from Taiwan, Chang Jun Lin(8), Ko Pin Yi(9), and Fu Chei Wei(10). Also in the line up are Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann(11), the USA’s Shane Van Boening(13), as well as Dutch pool stars Niels Feijen(18) and Nick Van Den Berg(22).
Fans should also be on the lookout for the Middle East to stamp its mark on this year’s tournament. Since the World 9-ball was first contested in Doha in 2010, the sport of American pool has seen a surge of interest in the region, with talent levels rising exponentially on a yearly basis. The trend was clearly evident in last year’s championship when four players from Kuwait made it to the final 64, a first for any player from the Middle East. One of those players was young Omar Al Shaheen. The 20 year old Kuwaiti made it all the way to the final 16. Earlier this year, Al Shaheen proved he was no fluke when he made it to the final four of the prestigious China Open in Shanghai.
The 2013 World 9-ball Championship is run in two stages. The first stage consists of the qualifier events which begin today, Monday in Doha and finish on September 5. The main draw begins on September 7th with the 128 players divided up into 16 groups of 8. Players will play a double elimination format, race to 9, alternate break. The top four players in each group, two from the winners side, and two from the losers side, will advance into the final 64.
From there beginning on September 11th, the tournament becomes a straight knockout, with all matches single elimination race to 11, alternate break. The semi-finals and finals will take place on September 13th. The finals will be a race to 13, alternate break.
The winner of the 2013 World 9-ball Championship will receive $36,000. The runner up will take home $18,000. The total prize fund is $250,000.
*The World Pool-Billiard Association(WPA) will be on hand in Doha throughout the week bringing you all the drama from the 2013 World 9-ball Championship. WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner will be reporting from the Al Arabi Sports Club with daily articles containing insight, interviews and analysis, as well as photos. Ted will also be manning the WPA Facebook page and Twitter feed and responding to fans queries and comments. Fans can also follow all matches via the WPA live scoring platform.
Please visit the new WPA Facebook page for the 2013 World 9-ball Championship herehttp://www.facebook.com/wpaworld9ballchampionship
Follow the WPA on Twitter: @poolwpa
Visit the official website of the WPA at www.wpapool.com
*The 2013World 9-ball will be held in Doha, Qatar from September 2-13,2013 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 biggest prize in Men’s Pool. The 2013 World 9-ball Championship is a WPA ranking event.
PRIZE FUND (US DOLLARS)
Champion 36,000 USD
Runner-up 18,000 USD
3rd ~ 4th 10,000 USD
5th ~ 8th 6,000 USD
9th ~ 16th 4,000 USD
17th ~ 32nd 2,500 USD
33rd ~ 64th 2,000 USD
65th ~ 96th 500 USD
TOTAL 250,000 USD