Looming Showdown in Shanghai
by Ted Lerner
(Shanghai, China)–An all-star cast of the finest men and women professional pool players from around the world has finally arrived and settled in here in muggy and hazy Shanghai, China. The formalities have been completed; the players meeting, the press conference, and a lavish banquet of fine dining Chinese food with over 300 people inside the five star Holiday Inn Pudong. And now the battle is set to begin.
Beginning Thursday afternoon, (GMT +8),64 men and 48 women will descend upon the Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium(655, Yuanshen Road, Pudong New Area) to compete in the third annual China Open, for one of pool’s biggest prize funds; $162,800 for the men, and $112,800 for the women. They’re playing 9-ball, alternate break, and the action is expected to be fierce and intense.
It doesn’t take long in China to fully comprehend just how big the China Open has become, and what it will mean to anyone who wins it, especially if you are from China. The sport of pool is literally going gangbusters in China. In Shanghai alone, there are literally huge pool clubs on just about every corner, with an estimated 1800 clubs scattered throughout this sprawling metropolis of 17 million people. In the capital of Beijing, the estimate is that there are close to 2000 pool clubs. In the entire country, there are an estimated 2.5 million commercial pool tables available to play on at any time. Top players, especially the women, are known by the average person across this vast country. For this week’s China Open the television audience is expected to reach nearly 20 million people.
At today’s press conference inside the Holiday Inn, Chinese superstar Pan Xiaoting perhaps said it best. Pan, who is known throughout China as the “Queen of 9-ball,” described the pressure of playing in her homeland.
“I’ve played pool for 14 years,” Pan, the 2007 Amway Cup champion said. “And I never enjoy the pressure of playing in China. Everyone expects me to win. “
Pan can take solace in the fact that she won’t be the only great Chinese player to be expected to perform miracles. Joining her on the dais at today’s press conference was a few of her world class compatriots; the defending China Open champion Siming Chen, current women’s World 9-ball champion Fu Xiao Fang, and former World 9-ball champion Liu Sha Sha. Chen, who is arguably the finest talent to emerge out of a sea of great Chinese women players, made it clear, though, that the pressure is meaningless to her when she declared: “I just want to show the level of how I can play.”
Chen will have plenty of chances to play to her freakish skill level as the strong field on the women’s side promises a battle royal. Joining the mix are the likes of Korean stars Ga Young Kim and Yu Ram Cha, Chinese-Taipei’s top ten WPA ranked Chei Yu Chou and Yuan Chun Lin, Hall of Famer Allison Fisher of Great Britain, current World Ten Ball Champion Jasmin Ouschan of Austria, Ireland’s Karen Corr, Britain’s Kelly Fisher, and Japan’s Akimi Kajatani.
On the men’s side, defending champion Zhang Yulong of Chinese-Taipei will have all he can handle with an exceptional field on hand. The Philippines has sent a juggernaut with the likes of the legend Efren Reyes, Hall of Famer Francisco Bustamante, Dennis Orcullo, Lee Van Corteza and Antonio Lining. Chinese Taipei brings Chang Jun Lin, Ko Pin Yi and Kuo Puo Cheng among others. The American contingent includes Hall of Famer Johnny Archer and Shane Van Boening. Europe will be led by World 10-Ball champion Huidji See of the Netherlands, Finland’s Mika Immonen, Brits Darren Appleton, Karl Boyes and Daryl Peach, German stars Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmman, Dutchman Niels Feijin and many other stars from the Continent.
China will provide about a quarter of the 64 man field. Names like Fu Jan Bo and Li He Wen are familiar to fans outside of China. But if you listen to newly crowned World 10-Ball Huidji See, people will soon know about a few more players from China.
“I had a bit of a reality check though over the last few days,” See said at today’s press conference. “I got here a few days early and I tried qualifying for a few local tournaments here in Shanghai but I didn’t even qualify. That’s how good the talent is here in China.”
The China Open runs from June 9-12. The World Pool Association will be offering fans around the world the opportunity to follow this prestigious event live as it happen through our live scoring platform at www.wpa-pool .com. In addition, to better tell the story of what’s happening, pool journalist Ted Lerner is on hand in Shanghai and will be posting several articles throughout the course of each day to keep fans fully updated with all the action.