Pan Advances to Finals
WPBA Tour Championship / Hollywood, FL
by Anne Craig
Kelly Fisher, the 2008 Player of the Year, and Xiaoting Pan, the number-two-ranked player on the WPBA Tour for 2009, were both looking for their first win of this season. With the cameras rolling and the crowd rooting on their favorite player, the second semifinals began with the lag for the break. Fisher won the lag and pocketed a ball to get things rolling. She missed the 2 ball but left a tough cut for Pan, who chose to play a safety. Fisher’s poor return safety resulted in a potential 2-9 combination, although it wasn’t an easy one for Pan, who lined up the shot carefully. Without batting an eye, she made it dead center and took the first game of the match.
Pan broke in game two but was forced to push out, leaving Fisher a long cut on the 1. She made it perfectly, but the shape she was forced to take on the 2 was less than ideal, so she played a safe, starting a safety battle between the two competitors. Fisher found herself with a tough long shot but snookered herself on the 3 ball and missed the one rail kick shot, giving Pan ball in hand. Pan ran out to take the 2-0 lead.
Fisher broke in game three but was forced to play a safe. Pan kicked the 1 ball in, banked the 2 ball, and ran out to the 7 ball but rattled the ball, allowing Fisher to finish the rack and the score was now 2-1 with Pan breaking. The 95-pound competitor “stuck the landing” on the cue ball and made two balls on the break. She pocketed the 1 but missed the 2 ball, but she left Fisher snookered behind the 4. Fisher was forced to kick at the 2 two rails—hitting the bottom rail then the side rail just above the side pocket, the cue ball struck the 2 just right and went into the corner pocket as the crowd cheered, but those cheers turned to groans as the cue ball headed right for the other corner pocket and scratched. Fisher just shook her head as she sat down, and Pan took ball in hand to run out and retake the two-game lead up 3-1.
Fisher went into game five with the break, looking to the pool gods to cut her some slack. She pocketed a ball, and the only real trouble on the table was shape from the 1 to the 2 ball. The 6 ball had rolled up ahead of the 2 and blocked open shape to the corner pocket. She had no problem navigating the issue and ran out to get back within one game, down 3-2.
Pan had the break in game six and after pocketing a ball ran out for a 2-9 combination to take a two-game lead, up 4-2. Fisher failed to pocket a ball on her break in game seven, but Pan was forced to start a safety exchange on the 2 ball. After Fisher was forced to jump, she left Pan a long straight in shot, which she made and continued through the rack. With her characteristic no-nonsense style, Pan ran out and took a three-game lead, up 5-2. Pan also had the break advantage but failed to make anything, and the crowd clapped, encouraging Fisher to stay in this match and run out. Fisher actually slowed down her game play, playing to the 6-9 combination, which she pocketed to add another game to the score. She did have the break in game nine and made the 7 into the side pocket. She had no shape for an open shot on the 1 and played safe, but she left the barest of windows for Pan to not only see the 1 but to make it. She continued through the layout and ran out to reach the hill up 6-3. Pan broke in game 10 but failed to make a ball, and again the crowd called out, “Come on, Kelly!” Fisher ran out to the 3 and made the ball but missed shape badly on the 4 and missed the two-rail kick, giving Pan ball in hand to reach her first finals of the 2009 season. Xiaoting ran out and won 7-3. Fisher finished tied for third with Jeanette Lee.
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