TEENAGE PRODIGIES EYE THE PRIZE
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
(Shanghai)–Chen Siming and Liu Shasha are both 19 years old. They are both members of the Chinese national women’s team. And they each have a prodigious talent with a cue stick that leaves fans of the sport in awe.
And now, the two friends will finally get a chance to go head to head in the finals of one of the biggest tournaments of the year in the world of pool, the 2013 China Open 9-ball in Shanghai. The finals will take place at 1:30pm(GMT + 8) inside the Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium arena. The match will be a race to 9, alternate break.
Both players have achieved fantastic successes in their own short careers but it was Liu who pulled off the most amazing feat, winning the 2009 Women’s World 9-ball Championship when she was just 16 years old. That same year, Chen won the China Open, also at the age of 16.
In the highly competitive world of Chinese women’s pool, however, it is Chen is who considered to have a freakish talent. Much is expected of Chen from her coaches and fans of the sport. Since winning the Philippine Open 10-ball in 2010, she has faltered in the big events in China and she seems to play under more pressure than does Liu.
The finals will surely be a back and forth affair as both players put in rock solid performances throughout the long day of play today. Chen first took down Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan in a messy match, 9-7. She then manhandled the Philippines’ Rubilen Amit, 9-2.
In the semi-finals, Chen met up with defending champion and world number one Kelly Fisher. The Brit had relatively easy wins over Taiwanese Tsai Pei Chen 9 – 3, then Lan Hiushan 9-5, and looked to be cruising towards a repeat of the last year.
Fisher surely knew, however, that she would be in for a much stiffer test in the semis against Chen. The match, which was about as good a pairing as you could find in women’s pool, was appropriately played on the TV table in front of a packed house and shown live on CCTV around China.
Chen grabbed an early 3-0 lead but Fisher fought back to tie. From there on in the two stars sparred in a high quality, give and take match with Chen getting a one rack lead, then falling back in to a tie, then getting a lead, then back to tie again.
The whole match came down to two mistakes by Fisher, one in rack 13 with the match tied at 6-6 and one right at the end. Chen was up 8-6, but Fisher fought back to force a one rack decider. In the final frame, Fisher thought she left a lock down safety on the 2-ball, but Chen could see enough of the long shot to sink the pot. She then calmly ran the table for the win and a spot in Sunday’s final.
“I played really good today,” Chen said afterwards through an interpreter. “I’ve been practicing a lot in the last few months and my confidence is getting better every time I play. After I lost in the group stages I tried to tell myself to relax and not take it too seriously. Kelly played solid, especially early in the match. At 6-6 she made a mistake and I was able to hold on.”
Fisher was disappointed but resigned to the fact that her two mistakes spelled the difference.
“It was a quality match,” Fisher said. “She played solid. I made a few mistakes in the middle of the match and that cost me. In the last rack I thought the safety I played on the 2 ball was perfect but I guess she could see just a little bit of the ball.
“She’s always been at that very high standard. But this time she’s held it together better than she’s done in the past. I made two more mistakes than her and in a way she deserved to win.”
Like Chen, Liu had caught a gear at just the right time, first beating Japan’s Chichiro Kawahara 9 – 7, then easily waltzing past 2011 World 9-ball champion Bi Zhuqing 9 – 4. The semi final was another east vs. west affair as Liu went up against Hall of Fame legend Allison Fisher.
As in Chen’s match with Kelly Fisher, Liu grabbed an early lead and fended off every attack by Fisher. The match was close throughout and Fisher nearly closed the small gap right at the end. But at 8-6 down Fisher missed a 9-ball and Liu stepped up and potted the long leave to send the hometown crowd into cheers and herself into a finals date with Chen.
The winner will receive $30,000. The runner-up will take home $15,000.
*The 2013 China Open in Shanghai, China runs from May 12-19 and is sanctioned by the World Pool & Billiard Association(WPA). 64 men and 48 women will compete in separate 9-ball events. The China Open is a WPA ranking event. The main event will begin on May 16 and run through May 19.
The WPA will be providing full coverage of the 2013 China Open Women’s final via its website at www.wpapool.com, and through Facebook at www.facebook.com/WpaChinaOpen. The WPA will be providing live scoring, daily articles and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner, and photographs. Fans can also follow the event through Twitter; @poolwpa.