THE PRODIGY VS. THE UPSTART
BY TED LERNER
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MY147.COM
(Shenyang, China)–Bi Zhu-Qing, a 23 year old relative unknown from Beijing, spoiled what was supposed to be a showdown between the two best players in the world, when she upset defending world champion and world number one Fu Xiao-fang 9-6, and moved into the finals of the 2011 Women’s World 9-ball Championship at the Liaoning Hunnan Sports Training Arena, in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Bi’s gutsy and inspired performance in the first semi-final on Sunday means she will now face 17 year old world number two Chen Siming in the finals Sunday evening. Chen, whose prodigious talent has been turning heads since early last year, overcame some late match nerves and defeated fellow Chinese Han Yu in a test of wills in the second semi-final, 9-7.
The all-China finals will be a race to 9, alternate break, and will begin at 7:30PM local time(GMT +8). The winner will receive $30,000.
Bi came into the match against Fu a serious underdog as she was ranked 7th in China and 81st in the world. She had also never before played in a World 9-ball Championship. Bi brought with her some solid credentials, though. She’s been playing cue sports for six years, the first three of which were spent solely on the snooker table. She has playing experience too, some of it overseas as she has traveled extensively around Asia competing in snooker tournaments in India, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau and Vietnam.
As the defending champion and world number one, Fu certainly came in as the heavy favorite. As the match wore on, however, the storyline took a classic twist. The favorite with the high expectations and all the media surrounding her started feeling the pressure, while the upstart with nothing to lose was calm and relaxed.
The pair split the first four games as both had the measure of the table with three break and runs. Fu looked like she was about to take a firm grip on the proceedings when she made the 9-ball on the break in rack 5, then ran out from a Bi foul in the next rack to go up 4-2.
Bi never flinched, though, and got one back in the next frame, then broke and ran to tie it at 4. Fu countered with another break and run in rack 9 to move up by one. Once again, though, Bi had an answer, as she forced Fu into making a poor shot on the two, then nailed a 3-9 combo to tie the match at 5-5.
The fast moving contest took a pivotal turn in rack 11. Fu was running out the table with several clutch pots when she missed a short cut shot on the 8-ball. Bi stepped up and made a difficult shot on the 8 but then had to play safe on the 9-ball. Fu’s tepid response left the 9 on, and Bi converted to take the lead for the first time in the match at 6-5.
Bi, clearly gaining confidence and riding a wave of momentum, stepped her game up another notch in rack 12 with a break-and-run to go up 7-5.
Fu fought back with a solid safety in the next rack but on the way to a clear, the normally rock solid champion committed another colossal blunder when she missed a makeable 6 ball. Bi left herself poor position on the 9-ball but never flinched as she stepped up and nailed a cross table bank on the 9 to move to the hill.
Breaking for the win, Bi played a marvelous lockdown safety on the one ball. On the verge of being on the short end of a massive upset, Fu threw a Hail Mary, potting a near impossible full table, blind shot on the 1-ball complete with position for a 2-9 combo, which she potted in the side.
Fu, however, scratched on the subsequent break. Bi took the ball in hand and with quality shot making, confidently ran the table for the biggest win of her career.
Afterwards, the 23 year old said she brought the classic underdog’s mentality into the match.
“No I didn’t think I could win this tournament,” Bi said. “Nobody thinks I can win. So I guess that’s why I’m relaxed. I’m just having fun out there. It’s like practice to me.”
“I had too much hesitation out there today,” Fu said in her typically gracious manner. “I didn’t play well. I have to take it as a learning experience.”
In the second semi-final, Chen came in as the favorite but also found herself tested by the pressure of the moment. Much has been expected of the youngster as fans in and out of China have marveled at her accuracy and tenacious fortitude. Last year she captured the Beijing Open and this past March she went to Manila and mowed down the field to win the Philippine Open 10-ball title.
Chen jumped out to a 3-0 lead as Han committed several errors. Han, though, dug in and fought back to tie the match at 4. Chen, who also plays snooker and has won a gold medal on the big table in the Asian games, exhibited her awesome skills in the next two racks with dead eyed potting to move up 6-4. Han, though, pressed the issue as she ran the next rack, then forced Chen into some glaring errors and tied things up at 6-6.
Chen cleared off a mistake by Han on the 1-ball to go up 7-6, but in the next rack she was clearly starting to feel the pressure of the moment as she missed several makeable balls. It was only when Han left a safety try open that Chen went to hill, 8-6.
Both players were starting to fall apart and the next rack became a matter of who would fully crack first. Chen had a clear table from the three ball but played terrible position on the five. Han then scratched and Chen cleared the remaining four balls for the win and her first ever spot in a world championship finals.
“We both made many mistakes,” a relieved Chen said afterwards. “I was a little nervous. It’s easy to say that I should be calm but I’ve never been to the finals of a world championship before. I want to win this very badly but I think I’ll be calmer in the finals. I’m sure my attitude will be better because I’m excited about this.”
The WPA will be providing full coverage of the finals at the 2011 Women’s World 9-ball Championship. The race to 9, alternate break match will begin at 7:30PM local time(GMT +8).
Fans around the world can follow the finals as it happens via our live scoring platform. The live scoring button can be seen on the front page of the WPA’s website, www.wpa-pool.com .
Fans can also follow the action via the WPA Twitter page, which offers instant updates, insights and scores as they happen. The WPA’s Twitter user name is @poolwpa. You can go directly to our Twitter page at, http://twitter.com/poolwpa.
The World Pool Association(WPA) is the world governing body of pool. The 2011 Women’s World 9-ball Championship is being sponsored by Chevrolet Automakers. Star is the official pool table, while Andy is the official table cloth. The event is sanctioned by the WPA and the Chinese Billiard and Snooker Association, (CBSA).
Finals 7PM Race To 9, Alternate Break
Chen Siming(CHN) vs. Bi Zhu Qing(CHN)