BY TED LERNER
PHOTOS COURTEY OF MY147.COM
(Shenyang, China)–The semi-final cast is set at the 2011 Women’s World 9-ball Championship in Shenyang, and, in what is essentially a shot across the bow to the wider world of women’s pool, all four players hail from China.
The young and fiercely talented freight train that is women’s pool in China has been building momentum all week, and it rampaged right through the field straight through to Saturday night. The last foreigner standing, Lin Yuan Chun of Taiwan, went down to defeat at the hands of 23 year old Bi Zhu Qing in the second quarter final at the Liaoning Hunnan Sports Training Arena, guaranteeing with still a day to go that the women’s world title will stay in China for the third year in a row. The incredible feat clearly stamped China’s virtual ownership of the women’s game.
Although having four players from one country in the semi-final of a world championship has taken some of the drama out of what has been a fantastic event, the prospect for the finals has everyone paying rapt attention.
The first semi-final on Sunday will feature world number one and defending champion Fu Xiao Fang, who will play Bi in a race to 9. The second semi-final will see world number two, Chen Siming take on fellow Chinese Han Yu. Both Fu and Chen are favored in their matches. Should they win and meet in the finals later on Sunday, the matchup promises some serious drama and tension, as not only Chinese supremacy, but world supremacy will be at stake.
The 23 year old Fu has played like the favorite all week but she very nearly stumbled out of the event in the first quarter final this afternoon, a marquee battle against China’s “Queen of 9-ball,” Pan Xiaoting. While her popularity certainly hasn’t waned, Pan has, over the last few years, taken a back seat in terms of victories as she’s toiled overseas, while at the same time the floodgates have opened to scores of much younger talent like Fu, Chen, and others.
Against Korea’s Ga Young Kim in the round of 16 earlier on Sunday, Pan played quality pool throughout the match and, despite nearly blowing a three rack lead right at the end, she said afterwards she felt satisfied that her game seemed to be on the rise. It was, she said, the result of her rededicating herself to practice so she could reestablish herself as the best woman player in China.
Pan always draws rabid fans whenever she plays and the match against Fu was no exception. Fans showed up with homemade signs that they hung on the metal railings urging Pan on, while others clutched large posters showing their love of the diminutive star.
Fu jumped out to a 2-0 and looked tough in the early going. The defending champion has a quiet but feisty demeanor and backs it up with quality shot making and excellent cue ball control. Even when she loses position, she often manages to recover.
The match stayed tight throughout but Fu always seemed to have an answer every time Pan came knocking. Then up 8-5 and at the table, Fu missed a makeable 4 ball, which led to Pan’s rabid supporters letting out a round of applause. Pan cleared to make it 8-6, then broke and ran to move to 8-7.
In the next rack Fu missed a makeable 2 bringing another round of applause from the crowd. Fu appeared rattled by the odd reaction from the normally polite Chinese crowd. And ominously for her, Pan had found her game just in time and the match soon went to a one rack decider.
In the last rack Pan broke but had to push out, and left a long one for Fu, which she potted. With palpable tension swirling in the arena, Fu worked the rack down to the final two balls. She took on a risky cut on the eight ball in the side and made it, then pocketed a difficult blind cut on the 9 for a gutsy win over a Chinese sporting legend.
“Yes, I felt nervous today,” Fu said afterward. “I know Pan when I was a kid and just starting out. I’m honored to play her. But I didn’t really notice the audience. I’m just thinking about how to play the game better.”
Fu will now play Bi Zhu Qing in Sunday’s first semi-final. The 23 year old Bi, who started her career as a snooker player, made a nice fight back against Taiwan’s Lin, the 2008 world champion. Lin has a marvelously fluid game when she’s on, but her loose approach to the game can also be her downfall and this proved true against Bi. Lin raced out to a 4-1 lead and held on to the advantage until the tiny Bi tied it at 5. Bi took control from there, helped along by an array of misses from Lin and won the match 9-7.
2009 World 9-ball Champion Liu Shasha took center stage in the next quarter final and was certainly favored to defeat Han Yu. Lui won in Shenyang when she was just 16 years old and had been playing well up to this point. The 19 year old Han, however, showed that the depth of talent in China is a deep as the blue ocean.
Han, who won the All Japan Open in 2009, jumped out to a 3-1 lead but played a series of poor shots which allowed Liu to move up 5-4. But fortunes for both players soon changed and it was Lui missing and Han capitalizing. Han won the match 9-7.
In the final match of the night, Chen Siming served notice that she is here to win the crown. While Fu is the defending champion, many observers of the women’s game in China feel that the 17 year old Chen could be the best talent in the country. Chen’s fundamentals and overall game are rock solid and her dead-eyed stroke is one of the most fearsome in the sport. When she’s on, which is often, she’s practically unstoppable. Which was the case tonight as she waylaid Zhou Doudou, 9-3.
“This is my first time in the semi-finals of a world championship,” Chen said afterwards. “I’m hoping I can win and that I can play Fu in the finals.”
If it comes to pass, it will be an all-China affair that will resonate around the world.
The semi-finals and finals will take place Sunday the Liaoning Hunnan Sports Training Arena. The total prize fund for the 2011 Women’s World 9-Ball Championship is $150,000 with $30,000 going to the winner on Sunday.
The WPA will be providing full coverage of all the action at the 2011 Women’s World 9-ball Championship. Fans around the world can follow matches as they happen 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 . There you can also see the brackets icon which will give you updated standings from each group and the knockout stage.
In addition, the WPA will be providing insights and analysis with articles posted several times daily on the WPA home page. Fans can also follow the action via the WPA Twitter page, providing fans with 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.
For updated brackets please CLICK HERE
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).
Fu XiaoFang(CHN) 9 — 8 Pan Xiaoting(CHN)
Bi Zhu Qing(CHN) 9 – 7 Lin Yuan Chun(TPE)
Han Yu(CHN) 9 — 7 Liu Sha Sha(CHN)
Chen Siming(CHN) 9 – 3 Zhou Doudou(CHN)
Semi Finals, Sunday, September 25, 2011. Race To 9, Alternate Break
2PM Fu XiaoFang(CHN) vs. Bi Zhu Qing(CHN)
4PM Chen Siming(CHN) vs. Han Yu(CHN) 9
Finals 7PM Race To 9, Alternate Break