By Ted Lerner/WPA Press Officer
Anyone who happened to catch Chris Melling’s performance over four days last year in the China Open in Shanghai knew right away that they had seen something special. The Englishman, who was twice a world champion in English 8-ball and had, at the time, only been playing competitive 9-ball for two years, was literally oozing with confidence all week. Everything about him- the way he walked around the table, his extremely fast play, the way he stared down layouts and especially the audacious way he potted difficult balls and moved the cue ball around- spoke of a man with a winning attitude. He never gave his opponents any breathing room, pounced on the smallest of mistakes and quickly put racks on the board.
After mowing down the likes of the Philippines Lee Van Corteza, Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann and the Netherlands Niels Feijen, Melling obliterated Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Kai Lun 11-3 in the final for his first ever major 9-ball crown and pocketed $40,000. At the time even Melling was impressed by what he had just done.
“That’s the best I’ve ever played,” the ecstatic Englishman said moments after lifting the trophy. “I’m not saying I’m a great player. But there’s a difference between being a good player and being a great player. A good player can play well in the pool room and in small tournaments. Great players can win under pressure in an atmosphere like this. I’m just beside myself right now. Absolutely unbelievable.”
Now, on the eve of the 5th annual China Open in Shanghai, Melling is aching to do it all again. The 33 year old, currently ranked number 5 in the world, recently reflected on his historic performance last year, some recent personal tragedies, and his desire to take his game even higher.
“It was massive for me to win a world ranking event as I had been knocking on the door a few times but didn’t get to win the big ones,”Melling said. “I had a real tough draw too beating the likes of Corteza, Hohmann ,Feijen and other top players. I’m pretty sure I can win it again. I’m in good form and not missing much so hopefully the rolls go my way and I can perform well. It’s been a terrible few years off the table, what lots of players don’t know about, so it makes it even more special now when I win.
Melling, however, knows all too well how things work in the pool world. When you’re on top everyone is gunning to take you down. But having ascended to the summit last year, Melling gained a new found confidence which he takes with him everywhere he goes. And he fully expects to be in the mix this time around as well.
“I’m ready for the battle and can’t wait to get to Shanghai as the defending champion,” Melling said.
The China Open begins Thursday, September 13 and runs through Sunday September 16, and features a heavyweight line up of 64 of the best men pool players from all over the globe. The event, which will take place at the Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium and is a major ranking event of the WPA, is held in conjunction with a professional women’s event, which last year was won by Chinese superstar Fu Xiao Fang. The men’s event offers $176, 600 in prize money with $40,000 going to the winner. The women will battle it out for $125,600 with $30,000 going to the eventual champion.
The WPA will be providing full coverage of the 2012 China Open, including live scoring of all matches on the WPA website, www.wpapool.com, daily articles, and updates on our Twitter page, @poolwpa.