IT’S APPLETON AND LEE FOR WORLD 9-BALL SUPREMACY
By Ted Lerner
(Doha, Qatar) –-After clocking in workmanlike performances, England’s Darren Appleton and China’s Lee He Wen have advanced to the final of the 2012 WPA World Pool Championship in Doha, Qatar.
The two will face each other in a race to 13, alternate break final which will begin at 6pm Doha time,(GMT +3). The winner will receive $40,000 while the runner up will take home $20,000.
As he has all week, Appleton put in an all around solid showing in his match against Japan’s Naoyuki Ohi. Ohi had come into the final playing perhaps the slickest pool out of all 128 players in the field. The 29 year old from Osaka had been dealt a very tough draw and performed brilliantly in each match.
While Appleton had been playing his usual solid pool, he also got very fortunate in the round of 32, when he barely escaped against New Zealand upstart, Matthew Edwards, 11-10, when Edwards inexplicably left an open table in the final rack.
But anyone who knows pool at the championship level knows that often times the eventual champion has had miracle escapes somewhere along the way to the crown.
Appleton didn’t leave anything to chance in his match with Ohi. The two played the first four racks perfectly, each breaking and running the balls twice. Ohi took the lead in the next frame but that was the last he saw of the lead.
Appleton caught Ohi at 4 then pulled a two prong strategy to take the match home; he stepped on the gas and he also kept his mistakes to the bare minimum. As usual the Englishman didn’t do anything flashy. He just took advantage of a handful of mistakes from Ohi, and didn’t take any chances when faced with shots that weren’t a sure thing. He won the match 11-7.
“I played solid,” Appleton said right after the match. “I didn’t do anything stupid. I only made one or two mistakes in the whole match and he made a bunch of mistakes. I had no luck after the break either. But I think my experience was the key. He was sitting right next to me and I could hear that he was breathing heavy. That’s my cue to just keep the pressure on. That’s when I keep my foot on his throat. I make sure not to give away any easy racks. If I have a 50/50 shot I’ll just play safe.”
Appleton is now in a position to put his stamp upon the pool world and create a bit of history. He already owns the 2009 World 10-ball title, and he is the current US Open Champion, a title he has now won two years in a row. Winning the World 9-ball crown would surely put him into the pantheon of all time greats. That’s why he has no plans on letting off on the pressure.
“Somebody has got to play very tough to beat me.”
That somebody who will surely give Appleton all he can deal with will be China’s Lee He Wen, who beat Germany’s great Ralf Souquet in the other semi-final, 11-6 . The 31 year old from Shenyang in Northeastern China often plays like a machine, just quietly and nonchalantly going about his business on the table, and seemingly unflappable.
Against Souquet, Lee came out all business, while Souquet seemed out of sorts. Lee went up 8-2 and it seemed like it would be a cake walk. But if there’s one weak spot in Lee’s game it’s that he often falls prey to the inevitable pressure and starts giving away racks. This could be chalked up to Lee’s relative inexperience in cue sports. He’s only been playing pool since 2006.
But Lee has a way of prevailing and this is exactly what got him this far in this tournament. Indeed Souquet mounted a spirited comeback and cut the lead to 8-6, while Lee was obviously feeling the heat. But Lee pulled off some extremely difficult pots just when he needed them and pulled away for the 11-6 win.
It would seem that experience and talent have to favor Appleton in the final. But as players have found out to their dismay throughout the week here, it’s never wise to underestimate the quiet, non descript Lee He Wen
The WPA will be providing full up to the minute coverage of the finals of 2012 World 9-ball Championship via its website at www.wpapool.com. There you can follow the action through our live scoring platform, articles with insights and analysis, and updated brackets. Fans can also get updates via the WPA Twitter page, @poolwpa.com.
Fans can also access live scoring through the official website of the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation at: http://www.qbsf.net/en/live_score.php.
Fans can also catch a live stream of the finals over the Al Kass Sports Channel at this link: http://www.alkass.net/live-plus.aspx
*The World Pool And Billiard Association(WPA) is the international governing of the sport of pocket billiards.
Race to 11, Alternate Break
Li He Wen(CHN) 11 – 6 Ralf Souquet(GER)
Darren Appleton(GBR) 11 – 7 Naoyuki Ohi(JPN)
Darren Appleton(GBR) vs. Lee He Wen(CHN)