THAT WINNING FILIPINO SMILE!
Story and Photo by Ted Lerner
(Doha, Qatar)–The Philippines made history tonight on the fourth day of the 2011 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar as the group stages came to a close after four days of exciting pool action.
When Lee Van Corteza pulled away from Sweden’s Marcus Chamat in the last session of the day, and won what had been a very close match, 9-6, it meant that a record setting 17 Filipino players had advanced to the 64 player, single elimination knockout stage which begins on Wednesday.
It’s not difficult to do the math and come up with the astounding result. Over one quarter of the players in the final 64 in the most prestigious pool tournament in the world are Filipinos. The onslaught of Pinoys making a serious run at the World Championship this year runs the gamut of the Philippine pool spectrum: from the legends, the new breed of stars who have risen to the top in recent years, the young guns who have just emerged, all the way down to the unknowns who ply their trade anonymously in the deserts of the Middle East.
Among the more notable Filipinos who will see action Wednesday are Hall of Famers Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, who is also the defending champion. Then there’s current stars Dennis Orcullo, Corteza, Ronnie Alcano, and Antonio Lining. Younger hot shots Roberto Gomez, Jeffrey De Luna, and one of the Philippines hottest players of the moment, Carlo Biado also qualified. And so did Antonio Gabica, who now lives and works in Qatar as a coach for the Qatar national team.
Although the sheer numbers of great Filipino players in the final 64 almost assures the Philippines of at least a semi-final spot come Friday, Philippine fans shouldn’t be counting their chips just yet as the overall field now assembled for the knockout stage is clearly one of the toughest in recent memory. Major upsets were few and far between in the group stages, as the notoriously tough Diamond tables seemed to ensure only the best players made it through. The standard of play has been exceptionally high which resulted in nearly every single big name in pool making it though to this year’s knockout stage.
Day four was Judgement Day at the World 9-ball Champion with all 32 race-to-9, alternate break matches do-or-die contests. As usual in pool when everything is riding on the line, there was plenty of high drama, loud sighs of relief and massive devastation inside the beautiful confines of the Al Sadd Sports Club. Five matches went to a sudden death rack, while 7 matches went to 9-7.
Easily the most dramatic moment came in the second session in a match between Poland’s Mariusz Skoneczy and former double world champion Wu Jiaqing(formerly known as Wu Chia Ching), who had only recently gotten back in the professional side of the game after being out of the sport for two years because of a row with his association in Taiwan.
Wu jumped out to a 3-0 lead, before Skoneczy took complete control of the match. Up 8-5 and with only three balls remaining on the table, though, Skoneczy missed a very makeable 7 ball. That was all the impetus Wu needed and before Skoneczy knew what hit him, the match was tied 8-8.
The final rack was one of those classic nerve rattling encounters that happens in professional pool when everything, including careers, are riding on the slightest turn of the ball and fans wonder how the players can even hold the cue stick. Skoneczy broke and got a ball down, but the pair ended up in a tense safety battle. The Pole had two lucky pots but with the win in sight he missed on a long shot down the rail. Then Wu was motoring to the finish line when he inexplicably missed a straight in shot on the 8-ball. While Wu looked skyward in complete horror, Skoneczy stepped up and cleared for one of the biggest wins of his career.
The Philippinines’ Gabica went up early against China’s Fu Jan Bo 6-1 but then withstood a furious comeback from Fu. The two went hill-hill until Gabica took the case game for the win.
Ameican Hunter Lombardo, one of only two Americans in the World 9-ball Championship this year, and a relative newcomer on the international stage, joined compatriot Shane Van Boening in the final 64 with a hard fought win over Qatar’s Waleed Majid. With the boisterous home crowd cheering him on, Majid battled back from 8-4 down to tie the match at 8. Lombardo prevailed in a nerve racking final frame to advance.
Other interesting facts and trends of note as the World 9-Ball Championship moves into the knockout stages.
-23 players from Europe made it into the final 64
-6 players from Chinese-Taipei, including last year’s runner up Kuo Po Cheng, qualified.
-All five Japanese players in the tournament qualified.
-Two Iranian players made it to the final 64. It’s first time ever in a World 9-ball Championship that players from Iran have made it to the knockout stage.
-Despite putting up spirited efforts, and while having clearly made major strides in improving their games, no Qatari or Gulf country player made it through to the final 64.
-2007 World 9-ball champion Daryl Peach of Great Britain and runner up Roberto Gomez of the Philippines will play each other in the round of 64 KO stage.
The final 64 single elimination knockout stage of the 2011 World 9-Ball Championship begins at 10am(GMT +3) Wednesday at the Al Sadd Sports Club in Doha, Qatar. All players will see action on Wednesday and the field will be reduced to 32.
The WPA will be providing complete coverage from inside the Al Sadd Sports club throughout the tournament. 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 new and improved 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.
Fans can also get instant updates, insights and scores by following the WPA on Twitter. Our Twitter user name is @poolwpa. You can go directly to our Twitter page at, http://twitter.com/poolwpa.
In addition, the WPA will be providing insights and analysis with articles posted several times daily on the WPA home page.
To view the brackets for the knockout stage please click here. Or click the Brackets button the home page of the WPA at www.wpa-pool.com Scroll down to the bottom of the PDF file to the see the knockout stage brackets.
Complete results from Day 4 of the World 9-ball championship are below. All winners have advanced to the knockout stage of 64, while the losers are out of the tournament.
Group A Losers Bracket
Konstantin Stepanov(RUS)9 – 3 Mohanna Obaidly(QAT)
Mark Gray(GBR) 9 – 4 Jalal Yousef(VEN)
Group B Losers Bracket
Lo Li Wen(JPN) 9 – 0 Ali Berjaoui, Mohamad (LEB)
Antonio Gabica(PHL) 9 – 8 Fu Jan Bo(CHN)
Group C Losers Bracket
Fu Chei Wei(TPE) 9 – 2 Han Hao Xiang(CHN)
Muhammand Zulfikri(INA) 9 – 5 Omaral Shaheeme(KUW)
Group D Losers Bracket
Scott Higgins(GBR) 9 – 7 Majide Alazme(KUW)
Caneda Villamor(PHL) 9 – 7 Lee Gun Jae(KOR)
Group E Losers Bracket
Ahmad Taufiq Binh Murni(BRU) 9 – 3 Manuel Gama(POR)
Roberto Gomez(PHL) 9 – 4 Christian Tuvi(URU)
Group F Losers Bracket
Hwang Yong(KOR)9 – 7 KO Ping Chung(TPE)
Dang Jin Hu(CHN) 9 – 1 Hanni Al-Howri(UAE)
Group G Losers Bracket
Ko Pin Yi( TPE) 9 – 4 Nguyen Phuong Thao
Hunter Lombardo(USA) 9 – 8 Wajeed Majid(QAT)
Group H Losers Bracket
Takhti Zarakani(IRI) 9 – 7 Ibrahim Bin Amir(MAS)
Riyan Setiawan(INA) 9 – 1 Thomas Engert(GER)
Group I Losers Bracket
Venancio Tanio(PHL) 9 – 4 Lee Chen Man(HKG)
Soheil Vahedi(IRI) 9 – 8 Francisco Felicilda(PHL)
Group J Losers Bracket
Mariusz Skoneczny(POL) 9 – 8 Wu Jiaqing(CHN)
Joven Alba(PHL) 9 – 4 Sundeep Gulat(IND)
Group K Losers Bracket
Serge Das(BEL) 9 – 3 Kim Laaksonen(FIN)
Israel Rota(PHL) 9 – 8 Bader Al Awadi(KUW)
Group L Losers Bracket
Lee Van Corteza(PHL) 9 – 6 Marcus Chamat(SWE)
Naoyuki Oi(JPN) 9 – 6 Abdulatef Fawal(QAT)
Group M Losers Bracket
Raymond Faron(PHL) 9 – 3 Mohammad Al Hazmi(KSA)
Ronnie Alcano(PHL) 9 – 1 Nguyen Phuo Long(VIE)
Group N Losers Bracket
Lui Haitao(CHN) 9 – 3 Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz(ESP)
Hsu Kai Lun(TPE) 9 – 5 Mohamad Asfari(SYR)
Group O Losers Bracket
Sascha-Andrej Tege(GER) 9 – 3 Desmond Goh Chin Teck(SIN)
Tomoo Takano(JPN) 9 – 7 Alok Kumar(IND)
Group P Losers Bracket
Oliver Ortmann(GER) 9 – 4 Ali Saeed(UAE)
Toru Kuribayashi(JPN) 9 – 1 Taher Hussain(QAT)