MELLING AND HSU MOTOR THROUGH TO THE FINALS
Story and Photo by Ted Lerner
(Shanghai, China)–Two relative unknowns on the 9-ball circuit. Two players playing lights out pool. One sure to be entertaining final.
Britain’s Chris Melling and Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Kai Lan both played perfect 9-ball pool Sunday morning in Shanghai as they each emphatically cruised into the finals of the 3rd annual China Open in Shanghai to be played later today.
In the first semi-final Melling defeated the Netherland’s Niels Feijen 11-7. In the second semi-final Hsu surprised everyone with an amazing 11-2 drubbing of former double world champion Ronnie Alcano of the Philippines.
Melling picked up the express train where he got off yesterday after taking down the Philippines Lee Van Corteza and then German’s Thorsten Hohmann. The 32 year old Brit and former two time world champion in English 8-ball is on fire right now, playing with supreme confidence and the belief that he can’t lose.
He needed that rock solid mind set too as Feijen came to win as well. The two Europeans broke and ran three out of the first four racks in the alternate break format. But no matter what Feijen threw at Melling, there was always an answer coming back. And quickly at that, as one mistake against the fast playing Brit these days means opponents pay a hefty price.
The pair split the first 8 racks and then Melling stepped on the gas, capitalizing on every single error by the Dutchman. In rack 9, Feijen made two difficult full table pots, then made a small mistake and from there the big Brit never looked back. Melling pounced on one Feijen mistake in the next rack for a two game lead. In the subsequent rack, the fast playing Melling played a great safety, which forced Feijen in to leaving an open shot, and Melling cleared again for a three game lead.
The same thing happed in rack 12. An error by Feijen and, just like that, Melling was up 8-4 lead. Feijen didn’t lie down, though, and stopped the bleeding with two successive racks to pull within two. Just as all champions do, however, they turn up the heat when the pressure is coming from all sides and the finish line is in sight.
Melling would simply not be denied. He broke and ran to move up 9-6. Feijen did the same in the 16th rack, then Melling countered with another break and run to move to the hill. In the final frame, Feijen left the two ball open, and Melling potted a 3-9 combo for the 11-7 win and a well earned spot in the finals.
“I played perfect that match,” Melling said as he walked off the TV table. “If I’m on I can beat anyone. Somebody is going to have to play very well to beat me. I never made one mistake.”
“I played pretty good,” Feijen said. “He just outshot me. He never missed a shot. Chris was the better man today.”
Melling, who’s only been playing professional 9-ball for two years, is clearly going to be very difficult to beat as he is oozing confidence on and off the table.
“I love the atmosphere of the TV table,” he said. “I love playing under pressure.”
Going into the second semi-final, most people figured that Hsu Kun Lai would eventually run out of gas, especially since this complete unknown entity out of pool powerhouse Chinese Taipei had never been in this kind of big time situation before. And now here he was on the TV table, and playing a double world champion in Alcano. Instead the exact opposite happened. The 22 year old Hsu looked like the confident veteran and Alcano looked like he had never been in a big time tournament match.
Hsu won the lag and came storming out, breaking and running to grab the early lead. In the next rack Alcano left the one ball open and Hsu ran out. Hsu broke and cleared in rack three. In the next rack Alcano missed an easy 9-ball. Then Hsu broke and ran again. In matter of minutes the upstart had a 5-0 lead.
Alcano ran the next rack but he was never able to get into the match as Hsu continued to play perfect 9-ball, doing everything right and making his opponent pay for the smallest of mistakes. Hsu cruised into the finals with a resounding 11-2 win.
“I’m just enjoying playing,” Hsu, a college student who has only won one pro tournament on the Taiwan circuit, said afterward. “It feels like I’m just practicing in the pool hall.”
Melling too has been playing care free as well. And with both talented finalists clearly in freewheeling mode, the race to 11 championship later this afternoon in Shanghai has the makings of a highly entertaining battle.
The World Pool Association(WPA) will be providing live scoring throughout Sunday’s final.