By Ted Lerner/WPA Press Officer

Photo by Tai Chengzhe/Top147.com

(Shanghai, China)–Shanghai is a city where people come to make their dreams, to reinvent themselves, to put pedal to the floor and seek out unimagined success.

And thus it’s surely fitting that here in this teeming, ultra-cosmopolitan metropolis, which serves as the bustling, commercial hub of the world’s most populous nation, that a stage has been set for  the world’s finest men and women pool players to do battle in what promises to be one of the year’s most exciting tournaments.

Now in its fourth year, the China Open, which kicks off Thursday September 13 at the  Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium, has quickly established itself as one of the premier events in the professional pool calendar.  The tournament, which is a major ranking event of the World Pool and Billiard Association(WPA), features both a men’s and women’s tournament. The men’s event offers $176,600 in prize money with $40,000 going to the winner. The women’s tournament, which is played at the same time, has $125,600 on offer with $30,000 going to the eventual champion.

But it’s not just the prize fund and the ranking points that bring out the best in the finest players in the world.  The anything-goes lure and fascination with this city seems to lend itself to greatness, to making the cream rise to the top. You’ve got to perform at an extremely high level to find success here. To know that just look at Chris Melling’s master class last year, when the Englishman steamrolled his way to the men’s title with a virtuoso performance.

At Tueday’s press conference to kick off the event, the anticipation amongst the players was palpable. Austria’s Jasmine Oushcan, who’s played in each and every China Open, seemed to express the enthusiasm perfectly.

“I’m really looking forward to the tournament,” Ouschan said. “I always had a good result here in Shanghai. I love the hotel, I love the venue, I love the food. We went to Shanghai downtown last night, we had a lot of shopping and nice food. I love it here. The atmosphere were great, the fans were great, so I really can’t wait to start play.”

Fan’s should certainly feel that same way as on both the men’s and women’s side, the fields are some of the strongest in memory. For the men’s tournament, Great Britain is bringing its usual big time line up with defending champ Melling, World number 1 and current World 9-ball champion Darren Appleton, 2007 World Champion Daryl Peach, Karl Boyes and Mark Gray.

Europe has sent its usual list of heavyweights including German legend and hall of famer Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann, and Oliver Ortmann.  The Netherlands is represented by Nick van den Berg and 2011 World Ten Ball Champion Huidji See.

Fans on the lookout for new talent should pay close attention to two rising players out of Europe. Nick Ekonomopoulos of Greece has come out of nowhere to become one of Europe’s top players this year and has put himself in-line for a Mosconi Cup spot. Then there’s Albania’s Nikolaso Malaj, who’s fearless style makes him a threat in any match.

The USA is well represented this time around with leading player Mike Dechaine on hand. Other Americans in the field include veteran Corey Duel, Oscar Dominguez and Hunter Lombardo.

As usual Chinese-Taipei brings in a world class list with anyone of them capable of capturing the title; World 8-ball champion Chang Jung-lin,  Ko Pin Yi, Fu Che Wei, Lo Li Wen, Chang Yu Lung and veteran Yang Chin Shun, who won a qualifier to get in the field.

The Philippines has a smaller contingent than usual but it’s no less potent, with Dennis Orcollo, Carlo Biado, and Lee Vann Corteza. Alex Pagulayan is also here but will be representing Canada.

China, of course, has the goods especially with the fearless Li He Wen, who has steadily established his credentials as one of the top five players worldwide. Li will be joined by Fu Jianbo, Liu Haitao, and several newcomers to the burgeoning scene here.

On the women’s side, the host country should get plenty of bang for their buck. Defending champion and world number 1 Fu Xiaofang is back, as is 18 year old  and world number 2 Siming Chen, along with two former World 9-ball champs, Lui Sha Sha and Bi Zhu Qing. The legend and superstar Pan Xiaoting will also be playing, which should insure plenty of large crowds whenever she plays.

But the Chinese women will have their hands full with the likes of recent World 10-ball winner Korean greats Ga Young Kim of Korea and her country mate Yu Ram Cha. From Europe fans can catch World 9-ball Champion Kelly Fisher and Hall of Fame legend Allison Fisher of Great Britain.  And, of course, ever a threat to win are the women from Chinese-Taipei, including the likes Yuan-Chun Lin, Chieh-Yu Chou and Penny Chen.

Going by the list of names just presented, there should be no doubt that the China Open will offer up a memorable shootout, and two champions who can rightfully claim greatness amongst the best in pool. Just what fans should expect from one of pool’s premier events in one of great cities of the world.

The WPA will be providing full coverage of the 2012 China Open, including live scoring on the WPA website, www.wpapool.com, and daily articles.

For updated men’s brackets, click here:

For updated women’s brackets, click here:

China Open, Men’s Groups

Group A
Darren Appleton(GBR)
David Van Den Berg(NED)
Jusman Jimmy(INA)
Kenny Kwok(HKG)
Waleed Majeed(IRQ)
Corey Duel(USA)
Chang Yu Lung(TPE)
Thorsten Hohmann(GER)

Group B
Chang Jung Lin(TPE)
Jason Shaw(IRI)
Nguyen Anh Tuan(VIE)
Daryl Peach(GBR)
Sharlik Aslam Sayed(SIN)
Yousfi Cahouki(MOR)
Liu Haitao(CHN)

Group C
Chris Melling(GBR)
Dai Yong(CHN)
Liu Wei(CHN)
Mark Gray(GBR)
Wang Can(CHN)
Hunter Lombardo(USA)
John Morra(CAN)
Ralf Souquet(GER)

Group D
Yukio Akagariyam(JPN)
Chu Bingjie(CHN)
Nikolaso Malaj(ALB)
Lee Wan Su(KOR)
Lo Li Wen(TPE)
Oliver Ortmann(GER)
Francesco Diaz Pizarro(ESP)
Fu Jianbo(CHN)

Group E
Ko Pin Yi(TPE)
Mike Dechaine(USA)
Nick Ekonomopoulos(GRE)
Hsu Kai-Lun(TPE)
Dang Jinhu(CHN)
Alok Kumar(IND)
Alex Pagulayan(CAN)
Carlo Biado(PHL)

Group F
Li He Wen(CHN)
Wang Ming(CHN)
Vaic Zbynek(RSA)
Jason Klatt(CAN)
Yang Ching Shun(TPE)
Nick Van Den Berg(NED)
Andreas Gerwen(SWE)
Dennis Orcollo(PHL)

Group G
Lee Vann Corteza(PHL)
Marcus Chamat(SWE)
Albin Ouschan(AUT)
Naoyuki Oi(JPN)
Liu Zheng Chieh(TPE)
Chen Ying Chieh(TPE)
Do Hoang Quan(VIE)
Fu Che-Wie(TPE)

Group H
Huidji See(NED)
Zhou Long(CHN)
Aloysius Yapp(SIN)
Abdulatif Al Fawal(QAT)
Zhu Xihe(CHN)
Han Haoxiang(CHN)
Oscar Dominguez(USA)
Karl Boyes(GBR)

China Open, Women’s Groups(Top seeded players in each group have byes in the 1st round)

Group A
Fu Xiaofang(CHN)
Rubelin Amit(PHL)
Wu Tzi-Ting(TPE)
Gao Meng(CHN)
Nicola Rossouw(RSA)
Wei Tzu-Chien(TPE)

Group B
Tsai Pei-Chen(TPE)
Liu Yuchen(CHN)
Jung Bo Ra(KOR)
Bai Ge(CHN)
Huyen Thi Hgoc(VIE)
Cha Yu Ram(KOR)

Group C
Liu Shasha(CHN)
Wang Xiaotong(CHN)
Li Jia(CHN)
Wu Jing(CHN)
Yukawa Keiko(JPN)
Chen Xue(CHN)

Group D
Kim Ga Young(KOR)
Tsuchiya Junko(JPN)
Chan Ya-Ting(TPE)
Duong Thuy Vi(VIE)
Bi Zhuqing(CHN)
Park Eun Ji(KOR)

Group E
Kelly Fisher(GBR)
Jing Jia(CHN)
Luo Qiuhong(CHN)
Cong Jing(CHN)
Han Fang(CHN)
Lin Youan Chun(TPE)

Group F
Chou Chieh-Yu(TPE)
Ren Qiuyue(CHN)
Akimi Kajitani(JPN)
Liu Shi-Mei(TPE)
Allison Fisher(GBR)
Lai Hui-Shan(TPE)

Group G
Jasmin Ouschan(AUT)
Chichiro Kawahara(JPN)
Zhou Doudou(CHN)
He Xin-Ru(TPE)
Zheng Xiaochun(CHN)
Han Yu(CHN)

Group H
Chen Siming(CHN)
Iris Ranola(PHL)
Jiang Teng(CHN)
Chai Zeet Huey(SIN)
Caroline Roos(SWE)
Pan Xiaoting(CHN)

*The World Pool and Billiard Association(WPA) is the governing body of the sport of pocket billiards.The 2012 China Open is being sponsored by Star Tables, Andy Cloth, Fury, Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong. 

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