Wiktor Victorious Again at Alfa Las Vegas Open
Heading into this year’s Alfa Las Vegas Open, Wiktor Zielinski said the fact that he won last year’s event wasn’t even registering in his mind.
“To be honest, I didn’t even think about it,” said the 22-year-old from Poland. “I just wanted to play my best and see what happened.”
What happened was he took opportunities when they arrived and battled through tough layouts and breaking woes when they didn’t, as Zielinski won his second consecutive Alfa Las Vegas Open, defeating Sanjin Pehlivanovic in straight sets in the finals Sunday at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Zielinski, who picked up $25,000 for the victory, needed to survive a shootout against Duong Quoc Hoang in the semifinals to reach the finals and repeat as champion.
“I wanted so bad to win this one,” said the Pole. “Hopefully, I showed my best game.”
He certainly showed perseverance, battling back from a lack of open shots in crucial situations.
After splitting the first two games of the opening set of the semifinals, Hoang reclaimed the lead with a break-and-run but allowed Zielinski to tie the match when he missed the 1 ball. The 36-year-old from Vietnam reclaimed the lead with a one rail kick in on the one ball and had a chance to increase his lead but misplayed position on the 4 ball then left an opening on a safety attempt. The Pole tied the match, then took his first lead of the set after his opponent fouled but Hoang evened the score again when his opponent missed a jump shot on the 3 ball in the following rack. The Pole recovered and sealed the first set victory when he won a safety exchange in the deciding game, 4-3.
After Hoang jumped out to a 2-0 advantage and sailed to a 4-1 second set win,
the two players split the first four games of the deciding set before Zielinski finally got a ball to fall on the break – two, to be exact – then ran out and take the lead. His opponent used a push after his break followed by a safety to tie the match 3-3 and force a shootout.
Even in the extra frame, Zielinski struggled to catch a break.
After pocketing the first two spot shots while his opponent missed the first two, he had a chance to close out the match. Zielinski made the match-winning shot then watched as the cue ball scratched in the opposite corner pocket. He recovered in the next inning, rolling in the game-winner to set up a matchup with Pehlivanovic.
Both players solved their breaking issues early in the championship match, with Zielinski building a 2-0 advantage with back-to-back breaks and runs before failing to pocket a ball on the break in the third game. The 21-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina cleared the table to climb onto the scoreboard then added a break-and-run of his own to tie the score. He had a chance to take the lead but missed a makeable combination shot on the 1 and 8 balls. Zielinski cleared the table but his opponent tied the match in the next game when the Pole scratched while attempting a safety. Now at the table with the break and a chance to win the set, Pehlivanovic failed to pocket a ball on the break and his opponent used a safety on the 1 ball to find and opening and run out to secure a 4-3 victory.
After splitting the first two racks of the second set, the match was all Zielinski, who went from not being able to buy a break to catching multiple good rolls down the stretch – including a missed 7 ball in the third game and a misplayed safety in the fourth game by Pehlivanovic to help build a 3-1 advantage. Zielinski got one more piece of good fortune in the fifth game when his opponent missed a bank shot of the 2 ball into the side pocket which left a wide open table. After pocketing the 9 ball and leaving a mostly straight in 10 ball for the game winner, the Pole raised a fist and looked to the sky in triumph.
“I knew that it was going to be tough,” said Zielinski. “Sanjin is a world class player. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. I played almost perfect in the first set and the second one I was a bit more lax.”
Monday will see the conclusion of the women’s Alfa Las Vegas Open with two semifinal matches beginning at noon followed by the championship at 4 p.m. local time. Sunday night saw defending champion Kelly Fisher reach the quarterfinals with a shootout victory over reigning Puerto Rico Open champion Wei Tzu-Chien only to fall in three sets Silviana Lu of Indonesia. Lu will face Seo Seoa, who defeated reigning World Women’s 9-Ball champion Chieh-Yu Chou in straight sets, 4-3, 4-3. The second semifinal will involve Bulgaria’s Kristina Zlateva matching up against Meng-Hsia Hung of Australia, who staged an epic shootout with Turkey’s Eylul Kibaroglu in the quarterfinals, needing seven innings in the extra frame to win, 7-6.
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