Story and Photos by Ted Lerner
(Doha, Qatar)–The World Pool Association 2011 World 9-Ball Championship kicked off at high noon here in Doha, Qatar(GMT +3) in what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting pool tournaments of the year.
128 of the greatest pool players in the world from 44 countries are competing for pool’s most prestigious title. $250,000 in prize money is on offer, with $36,000 going to the winner. The tournament will run daily through July 1.
The players have been divided into 16 groups of 8, playing a double elimination format, race to 9, alternate Beak. 4 qualifiers (2 from winner’s brackets and 2 from loser’s brackets) will advance into the final round of 64 players which is single elimination, race to 11, alternate Break. The final will be a race to 13, alternate break.
While the gathering of pool greats battling for a world title always brings massive excitement and drama, the atmosphere seemed to become extra charged up earlier today as players, officials and fans began arriving at the Al Sadd Sports Club in Doha just before the noon kickoff. That’s thanks to the eye-popping venue that has been setup here at the Al Sadd Sports Club.
The hall inside the shining Al Sadd is easily one of the most spectacular ever seen in the world of pool. Comparison’s could be made to London’s York Hall for the cozy and intimate atmosphere. But whereas York Hall can only accommodate one table, the hall inside the Al Sadd Sports Club provides the perfect space for the much larger needs of a world title.
The Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation has outdone itself in terms of the setup. At each table there’s an electronic scoreboard. The stands hold around 1500 people and every seat in the house offers a perfect view of the entire venue. Flags of every country represented in the tournament hang from the ceiling. On the opposite side of the stands is a balcony area for VIP’s which offer what looks to be the finest spot ever created to watch a pool tournament, with roomy, cushioned chairs and fresh towels and bottled water sitting on marble tables.
In addition to the beautiful setup, players could be heard giving their approval of the 13 Diamond tables set up throughout the hall. Diamond’s are notoriously tough tables, with extremely tight pockets. As China Open winner Chris Melling said when he entered the arena; “These tables make the pressure that much more tough on each shot. And that’s the way it should be.”
The first session of the day began with all players from groups 1 and 2 in action, plus the top of half of group 3. Three more sessions will be held today, at 2pm, 4pm and 7pm. The opening ceremony will be fit in something this evening.
The WPA will be providing complete coverage of all the action 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.