By Keith Paradise
CSI Staff Writer
Most people in the world of professional billiards know Japan’s Naoyuki Oi for his on-camera television interviews.
Blessed with a natural charisma and ad-libbing ability, one never really knows what Oi will do or say. He may dance, he may applaud himself, he may scream – or he may do all of them.
So engaging is Oi with a microphone that it’s easy to overlook just how good he is with a cue – although this year it’s been quite obvious. The 38-year-old racked up top 10 finishes at the World Pool Masters and World Pool Championship and reached the top five of the United States Open Pool Championship and Predator World 10-Ball Championship.
Friday afternoon at the FargoRate Ohio Open, Oi continued build on his resume by remaining undefeated with a straight sets victory over Austria’s Mario He, 4-3, 4-2. The eccentric personality was one of the first competitors of the day to qualify for the final day, single-elimination phase which will begin at Wilmington, Ohio’s Roberts Centre Saturday morning.
Both competitors battled not just each other but the table during the first set, as each twice failed to pocket a ball on the break in seven games. Trailing 3-2, Oi was able to take advantage of back-to-back openings left by his opponent after safeties to steal the last two racks and seal the win, 4-3. The Austrian jumped out to a 2-1 advantage in the second set thanks to a successful safety paired with a missed shot by his opponent in the third rack, but Oi capitalized on an open shot left by He after a safety in the fourth rack to tie the score. After Oi climbed on top 3-2, He had a chance to again tie the match in the sixth rack but missed a long shot on the 9 ball – handing Oi control of the table and a sure victory.
Overall, both players failed to pocket a ball on the break eight times in 13 total racks.
Two weeks from now, Thorsten Hohmman will be officially inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame, as he celebrates a career that has included two World 9-Ball titles and numerous straight pool championships. Although he is in the second-half of his playing career, the German showed Friday afternoon he can still compete at a high level, as Hohmann sent Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski to the one-loss side of the bracket with a straight sets win, 4-2, 4-2.
Hohmann got out to a quick start in the opening set, taking advantage of a Fortunski foul to win the first two games. The German had an opportunity to increase his lead to 3-0 but missed a makeable 9 ball in the corner pocket. Fortunski would win two of the next three games to maintain a one-game deficit and, when Hohmann missed a sharp cut on the 1 ball in the sixth game, the young man from Poland appeared to have a clear path towards tying the score.
That is, until he came up short on position for the 2 ball and left a shot on for his opponent, which Hohmann capitalized on to claim the set.
After breaking and running the opening rack of the second set, Hohmann missed a pair of shots in the next two games which allowed Fortunski to build an early 2-1 lead. The German rallied thanks to a successful jump shot in the fourth rack, a victorious safety exchange in the fifth game and a missed 3 ball by Fortunski in the next rack to win three straight and advance to Saturday’s second phase.
Later in the day, things weren’t looking so good for Alex Kazakis. He was already on the one-loss side of the bracket and seemed like he couldn’t buy a break. The Greek had just committed a foul and a scratch and watched as opponent Evan Lunda took advantage to claim the opening set of their match, 4-1.
The tables would turn in the second set, as Kazakis used a pair of Lunda fouls to build a 2-0 lead then added back-to-back breaks-and-runs to close out a 4-0 shutout and force a deciding shootout, The Greek was perfect in the extra inning, pocketing four consecutive spot shots while Lunda could only convert three of the spotted 10 balls.
Also reaching the single-elimination phase is fellow Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Mika Immonen, who recovered from a winner’s side loss to American Jeremy Sossei by eliminating reigning CSI Michigan Open champion Aloysius Yapp on the one-loss side. Immonen’s win was one of a handful of late evening upsets which occurred, as American Devin Poteet took out Hungary’s Oliver Szolnoki and Texan Jeremy Seaman defeated Fortunski on the one-loss side. Seaman, who gave Filipino Roberto Gomez Jr. all he could handle in the second round before falling in a shootout, rallied on the one-loss side of the bracket by winning three consecutive matches.
Brackets will now be re-drawn as the format now changes from double-elimination to the single-elimination knockout stage, beginning with four round-of-16 matches Saturday morning. A live broadcast of the tournament begins at noon on Billiard TV and also will be available on the WorldBilliardTV YouTube channel.
The FargoRate Ohio Open is the fourth and final stop of the U.S. Pro Billiard Series, which features four open professional events between July and the end of the year. Created by Predator Group and amateur league operator CueSports International, these tournaments will run in tandem alongside of CSI league amateur events being held throughout the country. The winner of each competition receives a guaranteed spot in the $130,000-added 2022 Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which will be held March 28 through April 1 in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel and Casino.
This competition was played on Predator Pro pool tables covered with Predator Arcadia performance cloth, with Predator Arcos II precision balls, and under the Predator Arena billiard lights.
For more information on the U.S. Pro Billiard Series or amateur leagues, visit www.playcsipool.com.
For the latest information on the Predator Pro Billiard Series action, follow @ProBilliardSeries on Facebook. Watch the action Live on Billiard TV on your TV, or watch it on the WorldBilliardTV YouTube channel on mobile devices.
Photo credits: Matt Porinsky