NEW TALENTS, OLD HANDS SHINE IN DOHA
By Ted Lerner
(Doha, Qatar)–With 128 of the world’s best pool players on hand contesting the 2012 World 9-ball Championship, and all playing a slew of matches in their groups and trying, over the next few days, to whittle the field down to 64, it’s nearly impossible to predict who exactly will emerge as the new king of 9-ball.
But as day one here in blazing hot Doha, Qatar has come to a close, certain important trends have already revealed themselves. Perhaps most important among them is the fact that the talent level throughout the world of pool has risen dramatically in the last few years.
We all know that the Philippines, Taiwan, England and many European countries produce serious pool talent. But what about not so known hotbeds of pool such as Iran, Lebanon, Finland, Albania, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, New Zealand, UAE and right here in Qatar?
The first 48 matches held Saturday inside the Al Sadd Sports Club have proven one thing and that is that the sport of 9-ball has literally gone viral, with solid players emerging from the most unlikely of places. Which means known players cannot take any match for granted. And that, of course, brings to us another trend we will witness this week in Doha; fans should prepare themselves for lots of upsets.
The first surprising result of the day came in the very first group out of the gates, when Kuwait’s Badr Al Awadi defeated former World 10-Ball champion Huidji See of the Netherlands, 9-7. It should be noted that Kuwait seems to be one of the big beneficiaries of the presence of big time pool tournaments being played year after year in the Middle East. Many of the Kuwaiti players are very competitive out on the table and seem to be gaining confidence with each passing year.
Also during the first session another upset caused waves around the arena, this one coming from Down Under. 24 year old Matthew Edwards from New Zealand knew his odds against American great Shane Van Boening were long. And at 5-1 down in the race to 9, alternate break match things were looking bleak indeed for the young Kiwi. But a massive fight back coupled with plenty of heart brought Edwards back into the match. He ended beating Van Boening 9-7 for the biggest win of his career.
Afterward, as many of the players do, Edwards went straight to his Facebook page to tell the world about his accomplishment. His comments are printed as is because, well, they speak volumes about how fascinating the sport of 9-ball at the professional level can be.
Edwards wrote: “I came into the match feeling very excited and a little out of depth… After our 5min warm up I was shocked to find out how tight the pockets were and how different the cushions reacted!!! What a confidence blower the warm up was 🙁 ! It was clear that Shane was more than comfortable on the American made Diamond pool table! Shane jumped out to a 5-1 lead without me doing too much wrong… I then kept telling myself I would stick to my initial game plan and never give up , try my best and fight to the end! At 5-1 I remember only seeing the ball in front of me and focusing on the sinking the ball! As weird as it sounds I was so nervous I was afraid to miss which drove me to focus harder and harder… I knew I didn’t know the cushions well enough so I would play basic position even if it meant playing a longer tougher pot on relying on my potting skills! I ended up winning 9-7!! I was very happy to beat such a great player and happy with myself that I didn’t give up and fought right to the finish line !!! I was playing on all heart despite the odds! I kept the belief in myself no matter what!!”
Folks, if you can’t get excited about the excitement of Matthew Edwards then it’s time to turn to following competitive hot dog eating to get your thrills.
As the day wore on, a few more surprising results kept coming in. Aki Heiskanen, a fresh face out of Finland, handily defeated Dutch star Niels Feijen . 9-4. Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen got the crowd pumped up with his nervy 9-8 win over Belgium’s Serge Das.
Many of the games big names had solid outings on day one. The Philippines Efren “Bata” Reyes beat Croatia’s Philipp Stojanovic, 9-3. Defending champion Yukio Akagariyama of Japan won 9 – 7 over Dominic Jentsch of Germany. 2010 World 9-ball Champion Francisco Bustamante beat Taiwan’s Lo Li Wen, 9-6. 2007 World 9-ball Champion Daryl Peach of England prevailed 9 – 7 over a very tough Sniegocki Mateusz of Poland. Current World 8-ball champion Chang Jun Lin of Taiwan defeated Dimitri Jungo of Switzerland, 9-7. Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann, the 2003 World 9-ball Champion, beat Taiwan’s Hsu Kai Lun 9-5.
Two time US Open Champion and former World 10-ball champion Darren Applenton of England nearly made it to our upset list as he had a very difficult time with Hamza Alsaeed of Eritrea, coming back from a 6-4 deficit to win 9-7.
Several high quality matchups produced some interesting results. Malta’s Tony Drago was leading Finland’s great Mika Immonen 7-1, only to see Immonen storm back to tie the match. The two went to the hill where Drago broke and ran the last rack for the win.
The Philippines talented but underrated Jundel Mazon beat England’s number one Chris Melling, 9-7. Two time World 9-ball Champion Fong Pang Chao of Taiwan beat China’s Le He Wen, 9-7. Taiwan’s Yang Ching Shun returned to competitive pool after a several year hiatus and beat the UAE’s Hanni Alhowri, 9-2.
In a result that won’t get too much attention outside of Tirana, Malaj Nikolaos notched the first ever win for Albania in the World 9-ball Championship when he squeaked by Qatar’s Abdulatif Fawal, 9-8. Nikolaos is actually a rising talent on the European scene. In 2011 he won the Kremlin Cup, defeating Mika Immonen in the final, an event that was sponsored by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The 2012 World 9-ball Championship continues in the group stages on Sunday. All first round matches will be played as will several on the losers’ side bracket of each group.
The final 64 will begin single elimination play on June 27th. The semi-finals and finals will take place on June 29th. The winner will receive $40,000, while the runner up with take home $20,000.
The WPA will be providing full up to the minute coverage of the 2012 World 9-ball Championship via its website at www.wpapool.com. There you can follow the action through our live scoring platform, articles with insights and analysis, and updated brackets. Fans can also get updates via the WPA Twitter page, @poolwpa.com.
Fans can also access live scoring through the official website of the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation at: http://www.qbsf.net/en/live_score.php.
*The World Pool And Billiard Association(WPA) is the international governing of the sport of pocket billiards.
Results from Day 1, Group Stages
Winner goes to winner’s side of the bracket and needs one more win to advance
Loser goes to losers side of the bracket and needs two wins to advance
Badr Al Awadi(KUW) 9 – 7 Huidji See(NED)
Efren Reyes(PHI) 9 – 3 Philipp Stojanovic(CRO)
John Morra(CAN) 9 – Hwang Yong(KOR)
Loyme Vicente(PHI) 9 -4 Mohammad Berjawi(LEB)
Tony Drago(MLT) 9 – 8 Mika Immonen(FIN)
Ramil Gallego(PHI) 9 – 6 Sundeep Gulati(IND)
Thorsten Hohmann(GER) 9 – 5 Hsu Kai Lun(TPE)
Ali Podel(IRI) 9 – 2 Abdulwahed Al Awad(KSA)
Jundel Mazon(PHI) 9 – 7 Chris Melling(GBR)
Matthew Edwards(NZL) 9 – 7 Shane Van Boening(USA)
Vincent Faquet(FRA) 9 – 7 Aloysius Yapp(SIN)
Malaj Nikolaos(ALB) 9 – 8 Abdulatif Fawal((QAT)
Chao Fang Pong(TPE) 9 – 7 Lee He Wen(CHN)
Thomas Engert(GER) 9 – 4 Edwin Montal(CAN)
Carlo Biado(PHI) 9 – 1 Rajandran Nair(RSA)
Roman Hybler(CZE) 9 – 3 Waleed Majeed(QAT)
Fu Chei Wei(TPE) 9 – 8 Do The Kien(VIE)
Karlo Dalmatin(CRO) 9 – 2 Mohd Buainain(QAT)
Fu Jianbo(CHN) 9 – 7 Marcus Chamat(SWE)
Jason Shaw(GBR) 9 – 5 Takashi Uraoka(JPN)
Aki Heiskanen(FIN) 9 – 4 Niels Feijen(NED)
Khaled Al Mutairi(KUW) 9 – 4 Mohd Al Bin Ali(QAT)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 9 – 7 Dimitri Jungo(SUI)
Naoyuki Ohi(JPN) 9 – Robby Foldvari(AUS)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) 9 – 3 Jalal Yousef(VEN)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 9 – 7 Dan Jingu(CHN)
Karl Boyes(GBR) 9 – 5 Ryu Seung Woo(KOR)
Yang Ching Shun(TPE) 9 – 2 Hanni Alhowri(UAE)
Hayato Hijikata(JPN) 9 – 3 Mark Gray(GBR)
Manuel Gama(POR) 9 – 7 Lee Chenman(HKG)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 9 – 1 Luis Lemus(GUA)
Omar Al Shaheen(KUW) 9 – 8 Serge Das(BEL)
Daryl Peach(GBR) 9 – 7 Sniegocki Mateusz(POL)
Bozo Primic(CRO) 9 – 8 Mazen Berjaoui(LIB)
Francisco Bustamante(PHI) 9 – 6 Lo Li Wen(TPE)
Abdullah Al Yousef(KUW) 9 – 3 Oliver Medenilla(PHI)
Roberto Gomez(PHI) 9 – 6 Takhti Zarekani(IRI)
Mohammad Saeed(QAT) 9 – 8 Alaa Bata(QAT)
Yukio Akagariyama(JPN) 9 – 7 Dominic Jentsch(GER)
Konstantine Stepanov(RUS) 9 – 3Harvey Shognosh(CAN)
Abdul Rahman Al Amar(KSA) 9 – 7 Bruno Muratore(ITA)
Bashar Hussain(QAT) 9 – 1 Kuo Yi Che(TPE)
Han Hao Hang(CHN) 9 – 6 Elvis Calasang(PHI)
Darren Appleton(GBR) 9 – 7 Hamza Alsaeed(ERI)
Jason Klatt(CAN) 9 – 3 Imran Majid(GBR)
Ali Obaidly(QAT) 9 – 8 Mohamed Elassal(EGY)
Liu Haitao(CHN) 9 – 3 Mario He(AUT)
Nick Ekonomopoulos(GRE) 9 – 5 Alok Kumar(IND)