Nov 11, 2013 | Events


Great Britain's Mark Gray BY TED LERNER

Photos Courtesy Richard Walker and Takayamo Takao/onthehill.jp

(Doha, Qatar)–There’s something about Judgement Day in the World 9-ball Championship that brings out the wild drama, and the crazy pressure that is unique to professional pool at the highest levels.

It makes a high stakes money game seem like child’s play. This is, after all, the world championship. And this is the moment where, with the field about to be cut in half, with all matches do or die, a player gets his chance to reach the final 64 single elimination stage. From there, in just three days with six more wins, he might just make history and win a world title.

Sure, for most players this incredible dream will remain just that. But pool is a sport where the slimmest roll of the ball, even just a millimeter, can mean the difference between staying a nobody or being crowned king. As long as you’re still standing, there’s always that chance at history, and with that carrot dangling out there, that means nerves rattling, arms and wills weakening, and unbearable pressure taking its toll.

As the Philippines Marlon Manalo said today after winning his match and advancing to the final 64; “Was I nervous? Sure I was nervous. You could win a world championship, right?”

Indeed with careers on the line, Day 4 of the 2013 World Pool Championship proved to be a Judgement Day in all its glory. 32 players made it through to join 32 others from Monday to make up the big dance, where it now becomes a single elimination knockout, race to 11, all the way to Friday’s race to 13 Final. For the 32 players who didn’t make it, the walk to the exits and into the all-encompassing heat of Doha was surely long and lonely.

On a macro level, the final 64 is dominated by pool’s powerhouse countries. As usual, the Philippines makes up a good portion of the field, just about one-fifth, as an amazing 13 Filipinos qualified for the knockout rounds. The British, including defending champion Darren Appleton, put in their finest performance perhaps ever, as all seven of their entries qualified for the final 64. Taiwan will be making its customary run at the crown, as seven players from Chinese-Taipei made it. Next up are Germany and the Netherlands, each bringing four players to the main ball.

Even when a match was fairly one sided today, nobody could escape the pressure. Manalo, whose been spending the last three year involved in local politics in his home area of Metro Manila, got a taste of what he’d been missing today. Even though he had little trouble with Poland’s Sniegocki Mateusz in a 9-4 win, Manalo still found himself dealing with nerves.

“Yes I felt the pressure,” Manalo said. “This is my first tournament in three years and I’m not 100% confident. Being an elected official is a very busy job and I only had a chance to practice a few times coming back. My confidence is not yet back to 100%. But I do have a big heart. As long as you have the heart you can win here.”

The Philippines' Efren ReyesAnother man who was feeling massive pressure was Manalo’s legendary countryman, Efren Reyes. Reyes seemed to have an easy time out there with Korea’s Jeong Young H, winning 9-4. But the man known as “the magician” can’t ever get away from the expectations of his fellow Filipinos, who always expect him to win. Reyes can’t escape from the expectations even in Doha, as there are tens of thousands of Filipinos living and working here.

“They always think I will win and if I don’t win it’s no good to them,” a smiling Reyes said. “Too much pressure out there. Maybe if I can win a few matches I’m gonna play good without pressure but now, too much.”

If players who waltz are feeling the heat, what more guys like Mark Gray? The Brit went up against 2011 World 9-ball Champion Yukio Akagariyama of Japan today in a rematch of their 11-10 thriller in the semi-finals the same year Yukio won the crown.

Gray was hungry for a bit of revenge. Plus he craved personal and professional redemption. The 40 year old from Petersborough, Cambridgeshire became a dad earlier this year and hasn’t played in any world events recently. In addition his last few years of pool have been filled with a string of disappointments.

The two top tier players engaged in a toe to toe battle that went to a nerve jangling one rack decider. Yukio broke dry and left Gray a wide open table. Gray, who by now was visibly feeling the heat, had only the 9-ball left to win but his position wasn’t perfect and he missed the shot. Luckily, all Yukio could see was a full table bank. The Japanese went for it and missed, leaving Gray a hanger, and a coveted spot in the round of 64.

“That’s the first bit of luck I’ve had in five years,” a relieved and delighted Gray said afterward. “I didn’t feel confident out there. I needed a result and to beat the 2011 world champion to qualify feels really really good.”

In a match that could have been a terrific final, Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann, the 2003 World 9-ball Champion, took on the Philippines Hall of Famer Francisco Bustamante, the 2010 World 9-ball Champion. The match was every bit the cracker the two names suggested it would be, with a palpable intensity throughout. The two were tied half way through but Hohmann took advantage of several good rolls and close the deal to win, 9-6.

Germany's Hohmann took down a rejected Bustamante of the Philippines“It was intense out there,” Hohmann said. “At 5-5 I got a couple of good rolls and at the end I didn’t miss.”

Hohmann couldn’t help but get a bit emotional about the match as he recalled his younger days in Germany when Bustamante, who was based there for many years, was considered pool royalty.

“I grew up playing against him,” Hohmann said. “He was like a pool god then. I’ve beaten him in many important matches. He has a lot of respect for me and that only makes me play better when I play against him. That gives me confidence. And I have a lot of respect for him.”

England’s Chris Melling put in another fine performance today with a 9-3 win over Taiwan’s Kuo Po Cheng, winning 9-3. In a tense test of wills, Carlo Biado came back from 7-5 down to beat Canada’s Jason Klatt, 9-7. Vietnam’s Nguyen Anh Tuan put in perhaps the best performance of the day, blanking one of China’s best players Liu Haitao, 9-0. It wasn’t a good day for the Chinese, as China’s number one player and last year’s runner up, Li Hewen, surprisingly crashed out, falling to the Philippines Raymond Faroun, 9-7.

Also advancing with hard won victories today were Fil-Canadian Alex Pagulayan, Germany’s 21 year old Dominic Jentsch, Holland’s 19 year old Ivo Aarts, Switzerland’s Dmitri Jungo, Brits Imran Majid, Karl Boyes and Phil Buford.

The Philippines Lee Vann Corteza had to overcome some early nerves and pulled away from a tight early match to beat Kuwait’s very tough Salah Al Rimawi, 9-4.

Switerland's Dmitri Jungo advancedTwo late matches came right down to the last ball. Tied at 8 with Japanese veteran Satoshi Kawabata, Greece’s Nick Ekonmopoulos looked like he could barely hold the cue. But he buckled down for the final clear and a spot in the final 64.

American veteran Corey Duel surely should have had no problem with Singapore’s young Aloysius Yapp. But the unbearable pressure got the best of both players, so much so that it appeared to cloud their vision in the final one rack decider. Yapp was looking for the quickest route out and went for a homerun with a 1-9 combo only to predictably miss. Duel took the rack and the spot in the final 64.

The country of Lebanon had its first ever success to celebrate as Mohd Ali Berjawi defeated Qatar’s Mhana Al Obaidly to become the first ever Lebanese pool player to advance this deep into a world 9-ball championship. Berjawi surely has no chance of winning the world 9-ball championship. But the expression on his face after what for him and his country was an amazing accomplishment, spoke volumes about how pool, and this world championship, can be so exciting and so much fun. When asked if he thought he could win the tournament Berjawi smiled.

“I have hope,” he said. “All the players have hope. That’s why we’re all here.”

Play in the Final 64 begins Wednesday at 11am local time(GMT +3) with all matches single elimination race to 11, alternate break. The finals, which will take place on September 13th, will be a race to 13.

The winner of the 2013 World 9-ball Championship receives $36,000. The runner up will pocket $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 WPA Facebook page for the 2013 World 9-ball Championship herehttp://www.facebook.com/wpaworld9ballchampionship

For live scoring of all matches CLICK HERE

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.

All matches from the losers side.
Winner advances to final 64, loser is out

Group 1
Ivo Aarts(NED) 9 – 5 So Shaw(GBR)
Efren Reyes(PHL) 9 – 4 Jeong Young H(KOR)

Group 2
Marlon Manalo(PHL) 9 – 4 Sniegocki Mateusz(POL)
Dominic Jentsch(GER)9- 3 Hunter Lombardo(USA)

Group 3
Imran Majid(GBR) 9 – 4 Bader Al Awadi(KUW)
Huidji See(NED) 9 – 5 Waleed Majed(QAT)

Group 4
John Morra(CAN) 9 – 4 Henrikas Stolis(LTU)
Mark Antony(PHL) 9 – 7 Marc Claramunt(ESP)

Group 5
Mark Gray(GBR) 9 – 8 Yukio Akagariyama(JPN)
Cheng Yu Hsuan(TPE) 9 – 6 Hanni Al Howri(UAE)

Group 6
Chris Melling(GBR) 9 – 3 Kuo Po Cheng(TPE)
Carlo Biado(PHL) 9 – 7 Jasson Klatt(CAN)

Group 7
Dimitri Jungo(SUI) 9 – 7 Hijikata Hayato(JPN)
Nguyen Anh Tuan(VIE) 9 -0 Liu Hai Tao(CHN)

Group 8
Jeffery De Luna(PHL) 9 – 5 Philip Reilly(AUS)
Ramil Gallego(PHL) 9 – 6 Radoslaw Babica(POL)

Group 9
Mohamed Zulfikri(INA) 9 – 2Ali Maghsoud(IRI)
Karl Boyes(GBR) 9 – 5 Nico Erasmus(RSA)

Group 10
Alex Pagulayan(CAN)9 -3 Han Hao Xiang(CHN)
Phil Burford(GBR) 9 – 5Abdullah Al Yousef(KUW)

Group 11
Thorsten Hohmann(GER) 9 – 6 Francisco Bustamante(PHL)
Alexander Kazakis(GRE) 9 – 3 Mario Morra(CAN)

Group 12
Corey Duel(USA) 9 – 8 Aloysius Yapp(SIN)
Raymund Faraon(PHL) 9 – 7 Li Hewen(CHN)

Group 13
Lee Van Corteza(PHL) 9 – 4 Salah Al Rimawi(KUW)
Mohd Ali Berjawi(LEB) 9 – 5 Mhana Al Obaidly(QAT)

Group 14
Oliver Ortmann(GER) 9 – 2 Bashar Hussain(QAT)
Nguyen K. Hoang(VIE) 9 – 5 Fu Che Wei(TPE)

Group 15
Kong Bu Hong(HKG) 9 – 6 Robb Saez(USA)
Nick Ekonomopoulos(GRE) 9 – 8 Kawabata Satoshi(JPN)

Group 16
Chao Fong Pang(TPE) 9 – 7 Tomasz Kaplan(POL)
Ryu Seung Woo(KOR) 9 – 6 Petri Makkonen(FIN)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Starting Times are GMT +3

Matches 1-8 begin at 11AM

1. Chang Jun Lin(TPE) vs. Oliver Ortmann(GER)
2. Antonio Gabica(PHL) vs. Nguyen Anh Tuan(VIE)

3. Ko Pin Yi(TPE) vs. Ryu Seung Woo(KOR)
4.Mika Immonen(FIN) vs. Alex Pagulayan(CAN)

5. Wu Chi Ching(CHN) vs. Chao Fong Pang(TPE)
6. Nick Van den Berg(NED) vs. Efren Reyes(PHL)

7. Toh Lian Han(SIN) vs. Kong Bu Hong(HKG)
8. Hsu Kai Lun(TPE) vs. Phil Burford(GBR)

Matches 9-16 begin at 1:30PM

9. Marlon Villamor(PHL) vs. Karl Boyes(GBR)
10. Konstantin Stepanov(RUS) vs. Huidji See(NED)

11. Israel Rota(PHL) vs. Mark Antony(PHL)
12. Lo Li Wen(TPE) vs. Raymond Faroun(PHL)

13. Manuel Gama(POR) vs. Lee Vann Corteza(PHL)
14. Daryl Peach(GBR) vs. Corey Duel(USA)

15. Mario He(AUT) vs. Mark Gray(GBR)
16. Wang Can(CHN) vs. Nick Ekonomopoulos(GRE)

Matches 17-24 begin at 4PM

17. Naoyuki Oi(JPN) vs. Dominic Jentsch(GER)
18. Vilmos Foldes(HUN) vs. Nguyen K. Hoang(VIE)

19. Niels Feijen(NED) vs. Jeff De Luna(PHL)
20. Ruslan Chinakov(RUS) vs. Mohammed Zulfikri(INA)

21. Darren Appleton(GBR) vs. Ivo Aarts(NED)
22. Toru Kuribayashi(JPN) vs. Thorsten Hohmann(GER)

23. Nick Malaj(ALB) vs. John Morra(CAN)
24. Dennis Orcollo(PHL) vs. Cheng Yu Hsuan(TPE)

Matches 25-32 Begin at 6:30pm

25. Chang Yu Lung(TPE) vs. Chris Melling(GBR)
26. Enrique Rojas(CHL) vs. Ramil Gallego(PHL)

27. David Alcaide(ESP) vs. Imran Majid(GBR)
28. Jalal Yousef(VEN) vs. Alexander Kazakis(GRE)

29. Ralf Souquet(GER) vs. Carlo Biado(PHL)
30. Shane Van Boening(USA) vs. Mohd Ali Berjawi(LEB)

31. Fabio Petroni(ITA) vs. Dmitri Jungo(SUI)
32. Omar Al Shaheen(KUW) vs. Marlon Manalo(PHL)



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