Immonen Earns Second Consecutive U.S. Open Title
U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships / Chesapeake, VA
by Lea Andrews
Mika “Iceman” Immonen tied with Nick Varner when he took his second U.S. Open Championships title in a row, winning 13-10 over Ralf Souquet in the extended final match. The Open began October 18 with 216 players and wound down a week later with the crowning of the Finnish champion, who earned $40,000 for his top showing.
Souquet and Immonen were both past champions of the event, with Souquet winning his green jacket in 2002 when he bested Alex Pagulayan in the finals. Immonen earned his first title last year over Ronnie Alcano of the Philippines.
Souquet faced Mills first in the match for the hot seat and got out ahead of him 9-5. Souquet’s scratch on the break in rack 15 put him in his chair until the score was tied at 9, though, and Souquet came to the table only once in rack 19 to face a two-rail kick shot. Mills closed out that rack to reach the hill first 10-9, but he made nothing on the break in rack 20. Souquet was out, and then a break and run in rack 21 earned him the hot seat.
Almost immediately, Mills had to face Immonen, who’d put Lee Van Corteza in fourth 11-8 after being down 8-5. “It’s not a good habit to get into, but it’s good to be able to come back from a deficit,” said Immonen, who’s had several comebacks this tournament and ended the Corteza match with a break and run. “It’s nice to end with style,” he commented. Against Mills, Immonen opened with a break and run but soon found himself down 5-2 and 7-4. When Mills scratched on the 8 ball in rack 12, Immonen made it 7-5, and three break and runs in a row gave him the lead 8-7. Mills tied it up at 8 after Immonen left a safety on the 1 ball open, but Immonen took the next two to get on the hill 10-8. Immonen missed a delicate safety on the 1 in rack 19, hitting the 9 instead and leaving Mills out. Rack 20 went to Mills after Immonen kicked at the 3 ball and left it hanging, and it was hill-hill. Mills had been breaking very well all day, and there was a good chance Immonen would not get out of his chair again. But the cue ball found the side pocket on Mills’ break, and Immonen navigated a tricky rack down to the winning 6-9 combination.
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Having successfully negotiated through 13 matches on the one-loss side, more than anyone ever had before, according to event promoter Barry Behrman, Immonen now faced former Mosconi Cup teammate Souquet in the extended race to 13. There was a massive $25,000 difference between first place at $40,000 and second at $15,000. Souquet drew first blood when Immonen broke dry, but Immonen took the next three in a row to gain a 3-1 advantage. When the score seesawed to 4 apiece, Souquet surged ahead, winning the next rack with a break and run. Immonen had a chance in the next after Souquet missed a jump shot, but he missed a straight-in 6 ball, and Souquet was out. Instead of being tied at 5 apiece, it was 6-4 Souquet.
Another miss by Immonen in the next, and Souquet put another game under his belt. But the tides turned again when Souquet hooked himself for the 6 and was forced to kick at it. He hit it but left the Finn a shot, and Immonen took that rack. And the next. And the next. Immonen won six racks in a row to bring the score to 10-7 in his favor, an astonishing change from being down 7-4. When he scratched on the 1 ball in the following rack, Souquet dished up, and though Immonen was back at the table in the next rack, he missed an 8-9 combination, and Souquet drew within a game at 10-9.
A delicate safety on the 3 ball by Souquet saw Immonen flail at it without success, and Souquet drew even at 10 each. A safety battle over the 1 ball ended when Souquet left it dangling in the corner pocket, with Immonen clearing that rack. Immonen completely missed the 2 ball after his next break, handing Souquet ball in hand, but Souquet lost that advantage when he scratched after shooting the 6 ball for position on the 8, and Immonen took the hill 12-10. In the final rack, Immonen broke and immediately eyed the 1-9 carom. He lined up, made it cleanly, and collapsed on the floor in a heap.
Footage from the finals and awards ceremony.
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