Wu Sails Through to Claim Diamond Las Vegas Open
By Keith Paradise
CSI Staff Writer
For the last half decade, Wu Kun-Lin has been hanging around the top of the leaderboard at professional pool events.
He placed third at the 2017 World 9-Ball Championship and followed that performance by finishing fifth at the same event a year later. He has a handful of top-five finishes in the Japan Open and, five years ago, Wu finished in third at the China Open. Despite the top finishes, the 25-year-old from Taiwan hasn’t been able to break through and secure a victory.
That is, at least, until this weekend.
Using a smooth break and some pinpoint safety play, Wu cruised to the championship in the third annual Diamond Las Vegas Open, defeating Omar Al Shaheen in straight sets, 4-3 and 4-1, in Saturday night’s finals at the Rio All-Suites hotel and casino. Wu, who posted an undefeated record during the four-day, 128-player event, managed to survive early charges not only from Al Shaheen in the finals, but also Estonia’s Denis Grabe in the semifinals to earn the trophy and the $15,000 check.
Wu jumped out to an early 3-0 advantage in race-to-four, two set finals thanks to two victorious safety exchanges and a break-and-run. Al Shaheen, who earned runner-up honors at this year’s World Pool Championship, climbed onto the scoreboard in the fourth game when he executed a table-length kick in of the 6 ball and ran out the rack. The young upstart from Kuwait then used a powerful break shot to break-and-run back-to-back racks and tie the score. Faced with a tricky 4 and 10 ball combination shot in the decisive game, Al Shaheen attempted to pocket the object ball but instead left a makeable 4 ball along the long rail, which his opponent pocketed and cleared the table to secure the set, 4-3.
Al Shaheen was plagued with mistakes throughout the second set, committing fouls in the first and second games as Wu again secured an early 2-0 lead. Al Shaheen was able to narrow the deficit in the next game when Wu overran position on the 6 ball and committed a foul of his own, but forfeited the table in the next rack when Al Shaheen committed another unforced error. After winning a safety exchange on the 2 ball in the fifth rack, it appeared the Kuwaiti was about to cut his deficit to 3-2 but left a routine 8 ball in the corner pocket’s jaws. Wu cleared the table, then tacked on another rack to seal the match and the championship.
The Kuwaiti climbed into an early hole before he even screwed his cues together, being assessed a one-game penalty in the first set for arriving late for the match. Al Shaheen would quickly wipe out the deficit, using a Van Boening scratch to tie the match, then using two victorious safety battles and a break-and-run to claim the set, 4-1. The second set was the photo negative of the first, with the two competitors splitting the first two games before Van Boening used two safety victories and a break-and-run of his own to run away with the set, 4-1, and force a deciding shootout.
The two players continued to play even during the spot shot contest, with each competitor landing four straight shots before Van Boening missed in the fifth inning. Al Shaheen then stepped to the table, pocketed his fifth consecutive ball and breathed a sigh of relief.