Four Men Standing at U.S. Open
U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships / Chesapeake, VA
by Lea Andrews
It’s official: Either Donnie Mills or 2002 U.S. Open Champion Ralf Souquet—or both—will be racing to 13 in the finals of the 34th Annual U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships Saturday. The two men, who were part of the original field of 216 gathered at the Chesapeake Conference Center in Chesapeake, VA, October 18-24, will play for the hot seat tomorrow afternoon.
Mills, who had to get by England’s Karl Boyes to reach the final four, had to get by 1996 U.S. Open champion “Rocket” Rodney Morris to reach the hot seat match—no easy task, especially after being down 8-4. “In the past, I would’ve given up when I was down 8-4,” Mills later admitted, “but one thing I’ve learned about pool by playing a lot is that I knew there was a good chance the momentum would shift my way, so that’s why I just stayed confident and focused. And luckily the momentum did come my way.” Mills took six straight racks to get on the hill, though he made nothing on the break in rack 19. Morris played safe on the 1 ball and was out with ball in hand, but he broke dry in rack 20, leaving a difficult but do-able layout for Mills, who pocketed ball after ball down to the 9, where he found himself nearly frozen to the rail. “I was literally going to take my break right then,” said Mills, who feared a miscue. “But I went ahead and went with it.” His decision earned him the match 11-9.
Meanwhile, Souquet, who’d gotten by Chris Bartram 11-8, was battling it out with Filipino Lee Van Corteza, whom he’s played several times but has never, to the best of his recollection, defeated. Throughout the match, though, during which he stayed ahead 6-1, 7-3, 9-4, and 10-6, and which he won 11-7, that fact wasn’t on his mind. “Obviously you don’t want to think about it, but here and there, you have people reminding you,” he said pointedly, though good-naturedly. Souquet explained that against Corteza in the past, he hadn’t played very well, but today, “Finally, I played a bit better. I still made a few mistakes here and there, but so did he, and I think it was a deserved win.”
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Corteza moved on to “California Kim” Davenport, who’d earlier edged out his own friend and business partner, recent Hall of Famer Johnny Archer, by snapping the 9 ball in off the break at hill-hill. Backing it up with a hill-hill victory over Karl Boyes, Davenport seemed more than ready for another win. But Corteza was ready himself, and though Davenport won the lag and the first rack with a break and run, it was his only lead. Corteza got ahead 6-1, 9-3, and 10-5, and though Davenport made a fantastic jump on the 2 ball with a full cue in rack 16 and finished off the table to make it 10-6, his break in rack 17 was his last chance at the table. Nothing fell, and Corteza was out. “I feel very happy,” said Corteza about his win. “I played well.”
Also returning tomorrow is returning champion Mika Immonen, who took care of Morris 11-9 immediately following Morris’ loss to Mills. Immonen, who played seven matches between midnight last night and tonight, had been feeling the fatigue in the early evening and opted for a professional massage in the vendor area outside the arena. “It helped a little. I had to do something to get my legs loose,” said Immonen, who noted that the most important thing was that his arm was loose. And it was. And how does it feel to reach the final day, to defend the crown? “Unbelievable,” he said.
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