For the past five years or so, competitors from Poland had been going deep in large professional pocket billiards tournaments and challenging the world’s best.
Polish competitors like Mieszko Fortunski, Wiktor Zielinski and Konrad Juszczyszyn would routinely reach the final 16 or quarterfinals of a major tournament or world championship – like in 2021, when eight Poles qualified for the 64-player, single-elimination phase of a world championship.
“Everyone is chasing after each other here and working on their game and it makes it very difficult for anyone to stand out,” said Wojciech Szewczyk. “We have a lot of passion for the game and we take it very seriously.”
Despite this passion, no one from the European nation had managed to earn a major victory -until last year, when Zielinski took home first place at Predator’s Pro Billiard Series Alfa Las Vegas Open and Szewczyk came from behind to win the Predator World 10-Ball Championship six days later. Both players along with women’s Alfa Las Vegas Open champion Kelly Fisher will be back to defend their titles beginning this week, with the Cue Sports International Expo kicking off this week. The 11-day event, which also includes the 3-Cushion World Cup, will begin Wednesday with the men’s Alfa Las Vegas Open and the women’s Open starting on Friday.
As Predator and CSI work to produce the toughest and fairest tests in professional pool, this year’s Pro Billiard Series events will see a format change. The single-elimination final stage of the Open tournaments will expand to three sets of a race-to-four from the two sets that it was previously. If the third set finishes in a 3-3 tie, a sudden-death shootout will occur. Competition in the double-elimination opening stage will remain a two-set race-to-four with ties decided by a shootout.
The format for the 128-player World 10-Ball Championship will remain unchanged, with players competing in race-to-eight double-elimination during the first half of the event before expanding to a race-to-10 during the single-elimination portion of the competition.
Zielinski survived a rollercoaster of a final day in last year’s Alfa Open, defeating Dimitri Jungo and Mika Immonen in shootouts to reach the finals where he took down Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp in straight sets. Six days later, Szewczyk trailed Edgie Geronimo 9-6 in the quarterfinals of the World 10-Ball Championships before taking advantage of a pair of open opportunities to come from behind and defeat his opponent. He then took down Albania’s Eklent Kaci and Christopher Tevez of Peru to earn Poland’s first world title. The weekend concluded with Fisher continuing a hot streak that would result in her earning a gold medal at the World Games later that summer and Player of the Year honors with Billiards Digest as AZBilliards, as the Hall of Famer posted an undefeated record and defeated Canada’s Britany Bryant in the finals of the women’s Alfa Las Vegas Open.
Professional events will be played on 18 nine-foot Predator Apex tables while over 6,000 competitors from the CSI Leagues will be competing on 276 of the seven-foot Apex table.
The prize fund for this year’s World 10-Ball Championship is also expanding to a total of $250,000 – up from $225,000 the previous year – with the winner’s share remaining $60,000. The two-week-long event kicks off third year of the Pro Billiard Series, which will include 21 total events this year that will pay out over $2 million in prize money.
Matches can be watched on Billiard.TV and on World Billiard TV, the official YouTube channel of CueSports International. A schedule of televised matches will be posted daily on the Pro Billiard Series and CSI Facebook and Instagram pages.
Brackets and scores can be found at https://probilliardseries.com/2023-men/2023-alfa-las-vegas-open/