Appleton First Brit to Win U.S. Open Billiards Title
U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships / Chesapeake, VA
It was an epic final match between two stars of the game, but in the end, Darren Appleton was the first English player to be crowned U.S. Open 9-Ball Champion. The U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships were held this past week at the Chesapeake Conference Center in Chesapeake, VA, and boasted a $50,000-added prize purse.
Appleton went undefeated through the 256-player field, arriving in the hot seat match by virtue of wins over Corey Deuel, David Alcaide, Efren Reyes, fellow countryman Jayson Shaw, Ronnie Alcano, Zion Zvi, and Ronald Tutien. To cap off a challenging road to that point, waiting for him was two-time defending champion Mika Immonen, ready to put a third Open feather in his cap.
A rule change this year was implemented: On the final day, to win a match a player needed to win by two games. This came into effect first during Deuel’s match with Warren Kiamco in the quarterfinals. Their score seesawed to 10-all, then 11-all. Kiamco inched ahead to 12-11 when Deuel scratched on the break, but Deuel won the safety battle in the next rack to knot the score again. Deuel ended up with ball in hand to reach 13-12, and when he broke the following rack, the 1-9 combo lined up perfectly for a 14-12 victory.
The hot seat match started off equally, but Appleton began pulling ahead to go up 7-2. Two errors and then a break and run gave Immonen three racks, but then the Finn scratched on the break, and Appleton made it 8-5. They traded the next couple of racks, and then Immonen moved closer after an empty break by Appleton and then a break and run-out of his own, making it 9-8. A safety battle saw Appleton emerge victorious in the following rack, but Immonen grabbed the next game. Now at 10-9 in Appleton’s favor, Immonen executed a tough cut on the 4 ball but then hung the 7 ball. Unable to believe his luck, Appleton dropped the 7, the 8, let out a “Wooooo!” and Immonen conceded the 9.
After two such close matches, the semifinal match was a bit anticlimactic. Deuel was primed from his narrow victory over Kiamco, and though the first six games were split to make the score 3-all, that was where Immonen’s tournament ended. Deuel charged him for every mistake and also had a few break and run-outs to nudge the score up gradually to win 11-3.
View U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships 256-player tournament brackets (updated continuously)
View U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships Final 8-player tournament brackets (updated continuously)
No one could describe the final match as anything but a complete nail-biter, though. The score went back and forth to 4-all before a leader emerged. Appleton pulled ahead to 8-4 after a couple of misses by Deuel and a break and run-out. But Deuel got back in the match easily enough, and soon the score was 9-8 Appleton. The finals were meant to be a race to 13, but with the winner needing to win by two racks, it was impossible to predict. The two fought back and forth, with Appleton maintaining a slight edge always. That is, until the score evened at 11 apiece. Then a break and run by Deuel gave him the advantage. But a dry break by Deuel restored parity, and then a break and run-out by Appleton gave him the edge at 13-12. A missed 2-7 combo gave the next rack to Deuel, but Appleton edged back up with a fantastic jump shot on the 4 ball. Up 14-13 and needing one last rack to win the $40,000 first-place prize, Appleton broke, and it looked as though nothing was going to drop at first, but the 8 ball slowly rolled into the side pocket. It was a fairly easy layout for Appleton, who nevertheless took his time sinking each ball. Another “Wooooo!” after the 7 ball, then he sank the 9 ball and fell to the floor, the 2010 U.S. Open 9-Ball Champion.
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