THE BIG BOYS BEAR DOWN
Story and Photo by Ted Lerner
(Doha, Qatar)–Over the years pool fans have become accustomed to the opening stages of the World 9-ball championship producing major upsets, with unheralded newcomers shocking world class players and sending them reeling over to the precarious losers side of their group brackets. From there the top player is pushed into a do or die situation with every shot carrying the weight of shame and embarrassment if he doesn’t produce.
The storyline that emerged loud and clear last night at the Al Sadd Sports Club in Doha, Qatar, however, was a completely different one. Many of pools big guns were in action in the final two sessions on day 1 and none were even close to being touched or threatened. World 10-ball champion Huidji See, former World 10-ball hampion Darren Appleton, former double world champion Wu Chia Ching, former double world champion Ralf Souquet, former World 9-ball champion Thorsten Hohmann, former US open champion Shane Van Boening, former world 8-ball champion Karl Boyes, Beijing Open winner Chang Jung Lin all romped to victory while barely breaking a sweat.
It could be said that part of the reason for the easy victories by pool’s elite was that the level of competition in the early stages of a 128 man field doesn’t always stack up. And it is true that perhaps more than half the field assembled in Doha has no chance at all to win pool’s most prestigious title. Perhaps only 40 to 50 players have any real chance to raise the trophy on Sunday.
But what was on display last night in the Al Sadd spoke of another kind of statement; that this year’s World 9-ball championship is for the big boys. Clearly the use of the notoriously difficult Diamond tables is proving a big advantage to the best players and will limit “incredible” upsets. Also the newly ramped up tournament venue at the beautiful Al Sadd Sports Club, which many are saying is the finest they’ve ever seen in pool, is getting players’ adrenalin supercharged and helping to bring the best out of the best.
Indeed the heavyweights of pool put on crushing displays last night in Doha. In the day’s third of four sessions, Thorsten Hohmann looked extremely strong in taking down Chinese Taipei’s very capable Ko Pin Yi, 9-4. The Netherlands Huidji See overcame some early mistakes and blew out Germany’s talented Thomas Engert 9-4. Chinese Taipei’s Chang Jung Lin had no problem with the Philippines’ Vicencio Tanio, also winning easily 9-4. England’s Karl Boyes cruised to victory over Francisco Olita of the Philippines, 9-2.
Before the final session of the day the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation held a 30 minute opening ceremony. Local dignitaries made speeches, a young man said a prayer, two young girls read a poem and then the arena was filled with a wild laser light show accompanied by music. For the finale the head of the Qatar Olympic Committee , who was seated up in the balcony, broke the ceremonial rack on Table 1 by pulling a hidden string from his perch overlooking the arena.
The impressive display by pool’s elite continued immediately afterwards. Souquet buried Poland’s Mariusz Skoneczny 9-1. Wu, who now plays under the banner of China, had no problem with Italy’s Bruno Muratore, winning 9-4. Appleton defeated Egypt’s El Assal 9-4. Van Boening cruise past the Philippines Joven Alba 9-4. And Sweden’s Marcus Chamat blanked Qatar’s Abdulatif Fawal 9-0.
In what promised to be a highly competitive match, Raj Hundal took on the Philippines Lee Van Corteza. Hundal, who lives in London but players under the flag of India, hadn’t played in a world championship event since 2007 but looked in fine form as he sprinted past Corteza for a 9-4 win.
“I played solid,” Hundal said afterwards. “I only missed two balls. But he also only missed two balls. It was a high quality match and he’s hard to beat so I’m pretty satisfied.”
The group stages continue Sunday at the Al Sadd Sports Club with four sessions running throughout the day and evening. 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 three and four on day 1 of the World 9-ball championship are below.
Thorsten Hohmann(GER) 9—4 Ko Pin Yi(TPE)
Waleed Majid(UAE) 9—4Tomasz Kaplan(POL)
Oliver Medenilla(PHL) 9—5Mohammed Al Harthi(KSA)
Nguyen Phuong Thao(VIE) 9—8 Hunter Lombardo(USA)
Jeffery De Luna(PHL)9—4 Abdulwahed Jamil Hussain(UAE)
Riyan Setiawan(INA) 9—7 Ibrahim Bin Amir(MAS)
Huidji See(NED) 9—4 Thomas Engert(GER)
Takhti Zarekani(IRI) 9 – 2 John Morra(CAN)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 9 – 4 Vicenancio Tanio(PHL)
Soheil Vahedi(IRI) 9 – 5 Amin Fekry(UAE)
Karl Boyes(GBR) 9 – 2 Francisco Olita(PHL)
Lee Chenman(HKG) 9 – 6 Dennis Grabe(EST)
Ralf Souquet(GER) 9 – 1 Mariusz Skoneczny(POL)
Sundeep Gulati(IND) 9—1 Mohd Buainain(QAT)
Shane Van Boening(USA) 9 vs. 4 Joven Alba(PHL)
Wu Jiaqing(CHN) 9 – 4 Bruno Muratore(ITA)
Darren Appleton(GBR)9 – 3 El Assal(EGY)
Bader Al Awadi(KUW) 9 – 5 Kim Laaksonen(FIN)
Chang Yu Lun(TPE) 9—3 Israel Rota(PHL)
Serge Das(BEL) vs. Mazen Berjauoui(LEB)
Marcus Chamat(SWE) 9–0 Abdulatif Fawal(QAT)
Allan Cuartero(PHL) 9 — 5 Mohmad Al Sofi(SYR)
Raj Hundal(GBR) 9 — 4 Lee Van Corteza(PHL)
Ohi Naoyuki(JPN) 9 – 6 Erik Hjorleifson(CAN)