Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz continued a remarkable year by winning the Predator World 8-Ball Championship, defeating Wiktor Zielinski 10-6 in the final at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, San Juan.
A packed crowd saw the Spaniard, who has earned an army of new fans this week, add a first World Championship to the Derby City Classic, three EuroTours, World Cup and US Open he has won this year. He ascended to the top of the World rankings this year too, a position further cemented after this event.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed a year which, with the addition of a World title to his rÃ©sumÃ©, must be considered as one of the greatest of any player in the sport’s history.
“It has been an amazing year for me, especially this tournament, because I never won a World Championship,” said Sanchez-Ruiz, whose trophy and gold medal comes with a $60,000 winners’ prize.
“I have won a Junior World championship but not this kind of event. Last year I won my biggest title and now I became World Champion, I cannot believe it. My goal is to keep working and be better and better every day but to win a World Championship is a dream for everyone.
“I want to continue playing like this. I could feel in every single moment here that all the Puerto Rican’s were supporting me and I think that is why I came back. In the beginning I didn’t play super good but I made a couple of good racks which gave me extra confidence.
“After I won the Derby, everything changed in my mind, that was very important for me this year. It has been amazing, but now I am looking for the Mosconi Cup. I won a lot of tournaments but the most important thing was the first big one.”
The Spaniard got off to a perfect start in the final when Zielinski’s dry break left a nice layout for Sanchez-Ruiz, who took a 1-0 lead. The Pole leveled with Sanchez-Ruiz wasn’t able to execute a difficult bank for the 7, and he didn’t give up control of the table as he quickly reached 3-1. A dry break brought ’FSR’ back to the table to make it 3-2. Zielinski wasn’t in his chair for long, however, and less than 40 minutes into the final was already halfway to the title at 5-2.
Sanchez-Ruiz was just as quick to join Zielinski on 5, taking advantage when his opponent missed the 11 to take out three racks and level the match. The Spaniard was in stroke and confident, and had the crowd behind him. He took the lead at 6-5 and didn’t look likely to surrender the table any time soon.
The event had been well supported all week, and for the final even standing room was at a premium. Those in attendance were being treated to a world-class display from Sanchez-Ruiz, who had won six in a row to lead 8-5 before two kicks on the cue ball meant he scratched on the break. Zielinski cleared for 8-6 but a scratch in the side pocket allowed Sanchez-Ruiz to the hill.
Zielinski had a final chance at 9-6 down but a missed bank brought the World No.1 to the table and it wasn’t long until the 8 was down and Sanchez-Ruiz was standing to hear his national anthem beamed across the arena.
The medal ceremony awarded bronze to Jayson Shaw, beaten 10-7 by Zielinski in the semi-finals, and Mario He, who also lost 10-7. The Austrian was defeated by Sanchez-Ruiz, who had also ended the hopes of Konrad Juszczyszyn, Robbie Capito and Fedor Gorst in the knockout stages.
The Predator Pro Billiard Series will return in 2023, starting with the Kamui World Women’s 9-Ball Championship in Atlantic City, NJ from January 19-22.
Brackets and scores can be found at www.probilliardseries.com