EARLY HOUSE CLEANING AT THE AL SAAD
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
Photos Courtesy of Richard Walker
(Doha, Qatar)–Most of Day 2 at the 2014 World 9-ball Championship was given over to the losers. That is, the players who lost their first match in the group stage, and would get one more chance in this double elimination format to get back on track for the knockout rounds, or face the ignominy of complete and utter failure on pool’s biggest stage.
Going two losses and out in the World 9-ball Championship is about as bad as it gets for a professional pool player. For the lesser players who never had a real chance in the first place, it only confirms their lowly place in the pecking order of what is already one of this planet’s toughest grinds of a sport.
But it’s the top guys you have to really feel for. This is a sport that already rubs it in on a daily basis, what with little prize money compared to other major sports, grudging sponsors, and competition for what is on offer as fierce as the June midday sun in Doha. Two losses right off the get-go at this event means you not only go home thousands of dollars in the hole, but you also start questioning your very existence as a pro, even as a person. Yes, total failure here for the big boys can really, really sting.
Take 2007 World 9-ball Champion Daryl Peach. After losing handily on day 1 to the Czech Republic’s Roman Hybler, he drew Hungary’s very capable Vilmos Foldes today in a sink or swim match that would see one of these top players pack his bags just as things were getting going, while the other would get one more chance at the money rounds later this week. This was as solid a pairing as you could see at the Al Saad Sports Club this week. When Peach won the title in Manila in 2007, he defeated Foldes in the semi-finals. Foldes has reached the semis twice in this event.
The two put on an entertaining battle that was as good as a late tournament thriller. The race to 9 match went to the very brink, and with the score tied at 8-8, Peach took an aggressive gamble that paid off big time and saw him run out to win.
Afterwards, Peach had the air of someone who just dodged an out of control lorry on the M25 motorway in London. He was happy to be alive, and planned on making the best of his new found life in the coming days.
“You come all this way and you want to perform,” a fired up Peach said afterward. “You try not to think about going two and out. I had to take that chance at the end there and it paid off. Sometimes to make something happen you have to just grab the bull by the horns. If you’re going to win a world title, you can’t walk in through the back door. You want to walk in the front door.”
The USA’s Brandon Shuff found himself in a similar situation but drew a seemingly far easier opponent in Egypt’s Mohammed Elassal. But in the World 9-ball Championship, we’ve learned never to underestimate anyone. The players from the Middle East especially have been making huge strides in the last few years and have offered plenty of stringent resistance and surprises.
After some early jitters, Shuff got it together and won handily, 9 – 2, to survive for one more chance at the money, and glory, on Tuesday.
“The doubt always creeps in,” the affable Shuff said afterwards, “especially if you lose your first match then draw a really good player in the next round. I was a bit lucky in that my opponent tonight wasn’t a top player. But still there’s a lot of pressure. I paid my own way here. I have to pay all my bills as soon as I get back home. It’s tough to wrap your head around it how much pressure there is in pool. I’m surprised players still keep their sanity.”
2011 World 9-ball Champion Yukio Akagariyama is probably struggling to keep sane at this point. The Japanese star found himself paired with one of China’s top players in Liu Haitao for another high quality do-or-die match tonight. The former champ fell behind early and never caught up, losing 9-6. Three years earlier he was the toast of Doha in this very arena. Now, he quietly shuffled out into the warm desert night practically unnoticed.
The legend Efren “Bata” Reyes looked like he was about to get dumped two and out as he had to chase Estonia’s Denis Grabe the entire match. Reyes, who clearly was struggling the entire way, had to muster every bit of magic still left in his nearly 60 year old gas tank to get to the finish line. The old master played catch up all night but finally pulled off a nervy nail biter, 9-8, to survive another day.
The day actually began with 16 first round matches from the group stage with all 32 players playing in their first outings of the tournament. 2012 World 9-ball Champion Darren Appleton had to come back against Finland’s Petri Makkonen but ended up winning going away, 9-4. Another former champion, Germany’s Olive Ortmann won handily, beating Qatar’s Bashar Hussain, 9-2. Canadian Filipino Alex Pagulayan, who won this event in 2004 and who’s been sharpening his potting skills on the pro snooker circuit the last few months, had a tough match up against Japan’s Naoyuki Oi, but pulled away to win 9-5.
The Philippines Jeff De Luna went to the hill with Poland’s Tomasz Kaplan and eked out the slimmest of wins, 9-8. Other comfortable winners of their first round matches included China’s Li He Wen, Taiwan’s Ko Pin Yi and Lo Li Wen, Qatar based Filipino Israel Rota, and Poland’s Radislaw Babica. Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen, the best player from the Middle East, looked extremely sharp today notching his first win. The 21 year old made it to the quarter finals here two years ago and has the game to take it even further this time.
One player who is firmly slotted as a dark horse to be noted is the Philippines Johann Chua. The sharpshooting and fearless youngster absolutely crushed the USA’s Corey Duel 9-2. Chua was lucky to even get a spot in the event. He flew to Qatar to try his hand at last week’s brutally tough qualifiers only to come up just short. But at the very last minute, a player from Peru cancelled, leaving a slot available. Chua was tied in the qualifier point system with Japanese player Arita Hideaki. They agreed to have a race to 5 playoff yesterday morning before the tournament began. Chua won the match 5-1 and claimed his spot in the event.
One of the biggest surprises from the last of the first round matches came courtesy of the Philippines unheralded Elmer Haya. The 37 year absolutely blitzed world number 4 and one of the tournament favorites, fellow Filipino Lee Vann Corteza, 9-2.
After the match Haya, an overseas worker with a wife and five kids back in Bhutuan Philippines, and who toils away as the house pro at the Joy Billiard Club in Abu Dhabi, revealed a little known fact that made today’s result not quite so surprising. The 37 year old used to play against Corteza many times nearly 15 years ago when they were up and coming pool players in Davao City in the southern Philippines. In fact, ten years ago, Haya beat Corteza in a big local tournament in Cebu City.
“I felt really, really good out there today,” Haya said. “I had too much confidence and that’s because I played him many times over the years. I always have confidence when I play Lee Vann.”
If anyone would have been depressed and embarrassed about going two and out it would have to be Corteza, as he is surely one of the favorites to win the tournament this week. After being dumped by Haya earlier in the day, Corteza had to come out later in the evening in a do or die match against Canadian veteran Mario Morra. Corteza found himself down 6-3 in the race to 9 match. But just in the very nick of time, Corteza found his game and won six straight racks to take a 9-6 win and survive for one more try on Tuesday.
In all, 32 players were given their walking papers today. No money, no glory, just a head full of doubts and thoughts about what might have been. For sure, pool can be a very cruel sport.
The group stage of the 2014 WPA World 9-ball Championship continues on Monday with all winners side matches. Winners will go through to the Final 64 single elimination knockout stage. Losers will get one more chance over on the losers side of their group bracket.
**The 2014 World 9-ball Championship takes place at the Al Saad Sports Club in Doha, Qatar from June 16-27. The winner of the 2014 World 9-ball Championship will receive $30,000. The runner up will receive $15,000. The total prize fund is $200,000.
The players will be competing on Wiraka New Model Tables with Simonis 860 Cloth, Electric Blue Color and using Aramith Super Pro TV Balls.
The Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation, which is once again hosting and organizing the World 9-ball Championship, will be providing free live streaming of the entire tournament on its website, http://live.qbsf.qa/.
The view the complete brackets for the Group Stages, please CLICK HERE
The WPA will be on hand in Doha throughout this year’s World 9-ball Championship providing up to the minute information, live scoring, photographs and in depth articles with insights and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner.
Fans can interact with us through the WPA’s official Facebook Page for the event at this link;https://www.facebook.com/wpaworld9ballchampionship
The WPA is also on Twitter; @poolwpa
For more information you can also visit the WPA website at www.wpapool.com. Fans can also visit the website of the Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation at; www.qbsf.qa
*The 2014 World 9-ball Championship will be held in Doha, Qatar from June 16-27,2014 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 most prestigious prize in Men’s Pool. The 2014 World 9-ball Championship is a WPA ranking event.
Results from Day 2
1st Round Matches
Darren Appleton(GBR) 9-4 Petri Makkonen(FIN)
Lin Cheng Chieh(TPE) 9 – 0 Bader Al Hamden(KSA)
Lo Li Wen(TPE) 9 – 4 Koh Seng Ann Aaron(SIN)
Johann Chua(PHL) 9 – 2 Corey Deuel(USA)
Jeffrey De Luna(PHL) 9 – 8 Tomasz Kaplan(POL)
Israel Rota(PHL) 9 – 0 J-Ram Alabanzas(RSA)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 9 – 7 Manuel Gama (POR)
Salaheldeen Al Rimawi(UAE) 9 – 6 Imran Majid(GBR)
Alex Pagulayan(CAN) 9 – 5Naoyuki Oi(JPN)
Radoslaw Babica(POL)9 – 5 So Shaw(IRI)
Omar Al Shaheen(KUW) 9 – 1 Kwok Chi Ho(HKG)
Li He Wen(CHN) 9 – 2 Ivica Putnik(CRO)
Oliver Ortmann(GER) 9 – 2 Bashar Hussain(QAT)
Omran Salem(UAE) 9 – 8 Sundeep Gulati(IND)
Elmer D. Haya(PHL) 9 – 2 Lee Van Corteza(PHL)
Artem Koshovyi(UKR) 9 – 5 Mario Morra(CAN)
Results From Losers Bracket Matches
Losers are out, Winners have one more chance
Sumit Talwar(IND) 9 – 1 Mohamed Al Hosani(UAE)
Erik Hjorleifson(CAN) 9 – 8 Mohd Al Bin Ali(QAT)
Scott Cooney(GBR) 9 – 6 John Morra(CAN)
Dimitri Jungo(SUI) 9 – 3 Hasan Hwaida Idan(IRQ)
Alexander Kazakis(GRE) 9 – 6 Hamzaa M. Saeed Ali(ERI)
Melkonyan Babken(ROU) 9 – 4 Ahmad Taufiq(BRU)
Ramil Gallego(PHL) 9 – 7 Mishel Turkey(QAT)
Kuo Po Cheng(TPE) 9 – 3 Fahim Sinha(BAN)
Liu Hai Tao(CHN) 9 – 6 Yukio Akagariyama(JPN)
Hunter Lombardo(USA) 9 – 2 Detlef Grzella(RSA)
Frailin Guanipa(VEN) 9 – 2 Mohamed Hamouda(EGY)
Stephen Cohen(FRA) 9 – 6 Eric Lee(HKG)
Jason Klatt(CAN) 9 – 4 Karol Skowerski(POL)
Chang Jung Lin(TPE) 9 – 2 Abdulla Mohammad(UAE)
Daryl Peach(GBR) 9 – 8 Vilmos Foldes(HUN)
Glen Coutts(NZL) 9 – 4 Nour Wasfi Al Jarrah(JOR)
Maj Al Azmi(KUW) 9 – 4 Sayeem Hossain(BAN)
Efren Reyes(PHL) 9 – 8 Denis Grabe(EST)
Mazen Berjaoui(LEB) 9 – 6Stefan Sprangers(NED)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 9 – 6 Alejandro Carbajal(CHI)
Brandon Shuff(USA) 9 – 2 Mohammed Elassal(EGY)
Mohammadali Pordel(IRI) 9 – 5 Jurgen Jenisy(AUT)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) 9 – 2 Mohammed Ali Berjaou(LEB)
Francisco Felicilda(PHL) 9 – 5 Christian Aguirre(ECU)
Petri Makkonen(FIN) 9 – 1 Bader Al Hamdan(KSA)
Corey Duel(USA) 9 – 2 Koh Seng Ann Aaron(SIN)
Tomasz Kaplan(POL) 9 – 1 J-Ram Alabanzas(RSA)
Manuel Gama(POR) 9 – 6 Imran Majid(GBR)
Naoyuki Oi(JPN) 9 – 1 So Shaw(IRI)
Ivica Putnik(CRO) 9 – 6 Kwok Chi Ho(HKG)
Sundeep Gulati(IND) 9 – 3 Bashar Hussain(QAT)
Lee Vann Corteza(PHL) 9 – 6 Mario Morra(CAN)