Day One of the Philippine Open
by Edward Asistin
Sixty-four of the world’s finest pool players began the day with the goal of becoming the first-ever Philippine Open champion. The format for the Stage 2 Main Tournament features a four-player redraw crossover single-elimination final bracket. The top 16 players were seeded and placed in the brackets accordingly. The remaining slots in the brackets were decided randomly at the player’s meeting on Tuesday when each player took turns drawing cards to see where they would be placed.
The featured match of the day ended up not being a match at all, but it was an exhibition of nearly flawless pool. The match was broadcast live across the world and featured world-number-one-ranked Ralf Souquet and highly touted female player Jasmin Ouschan. The only error was when Souquet had to jump over a ball and make the 1 ball in the ninth rack. He had broke dry in that rack, and then Ouschan played a strong safe. The jump to make the 1 ball looked good until it rattled in the jaws of the pocket. Ouschan then pocketed the first ball of the match and proceeded to run out the rest of the rack to claim her first and only game of the match. Souquet then won the next game, bringing an end to the bloodbath 9-1. Unfortunately Souquet had to play another match at the end of the day and became the first of the seeded players to fall in the second round of the winner’s bracket with a 9-6 loss to M. Tolentino.
The big story of the day involves one of the six women competing here against the men. Kelly Fisher defeated Timo Makela 9-7 in the first round to claim the first and second wins for a woman in the tournament and also the only triumphs for a woman so far. Fisher was down 6-2 and then came back to win the next six games before finally finishing off her opponent. Fisher was one of six players who played a second match on the first day of play. Her opponent in the second round of the winner’s side was Victor Arpilleda (Philippines). She jumped out to a small lead early on and never trailed in the match. At 7-7, Fisher won the next game, and when Arpilleda rattled the 8 ball in the next, Fisher had an easy three-ball out to win the match. She is guaranteed to be in the money in 17-24th place at worst.
The 9th seed, Corey Deuel, was the first of the 16 seeded players to suffer a loss. The match between him and Victor Arpilleda (Philippines) was tied at 4 before Arpilleda won the next four games to get on the hill at 8-4. Deuel battled back but eventually succumbed 9-7.
The next seeded player to fall in the first round of play was Fu Chei-Wei (Taiwan). The number six seed’s kryptonite seems to be Leonardo Didal (Philippines). Didal defeated Fu in Subic-Olongapo stop of the Philippine Pool Tour just a month ago. The match was even at 3-3 when Didal won the next five games. Didal eventually won the match 9-4, sending Fu to battle in the one-loss bracket.
Yet another seeded player lost when Jerico Banares (Philippines) fell to Jonni Fulcher (UK) 9-2. Banares was clearly not playing to the best of his ability.
It didn’t look good for reigning World Junior Champion Ko Pin-Yi early in his match against second-chance qualifier Kenichi Uchigaki when Uchigaki was leading the match 4-2. Ko Pin-Yi managed to grab the next six games to get to the hill before winning 9-6.
On a quick note, it does pay off to work hard to be on the alternate list. All of the lucky losers that placed 9-12th in the Stage 1 qualifying tournament were placed in the main field because other players were unable to make it. The day before play began in the Stage 2 Main Tournament of the 2009 Philippine Open, Luis Saberdo (Philippines) received news that entry in the main field has been granted to him because of a withdrawal by another entry. On the morning of the first day of play, Chan Keng Kwang (Singapore) found out he was going to replace Fu Jian Bo in the main field only to find out his opponent to be was top American player Shane Van Boening. James Al Ortega (Philippines) replaced seeded Mika Immonen, and Kok Hon Keong (Malaysia) replaced Zoran Zvilar (Serbia). All of the hard work that seemed to be for naught in the Stage 1 qualifier appears to have paid off for these players.