World 9-Ball Championship Heats up

Double Trouble IN Doha Billiards Event

GABICA OUSTS IMMONEN, GRAY DOWNS KUO IN 11-10 THRILLERS AT THE WORLD 9-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP IN QATAR

Story and Photo by Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)–Antonio Gabica has often been viewed by pool fans as an extremely talented player who tends to wilt when it comes to big time pressure situations. But to the man known as “Ga Ga” to his fellow Filipinos, that moniker now sits forever at the bottom of the nearest trash can at the Al Sadd Sports Club.

Gabica stepped up in the biggest way possible under massive pressure this afternoon and defeated former World Champion Mika Immonen 11-10 in a dramatic finish in the round of 64 at the 2011 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar. Gabica now advances to the final 32 tomorrow in Doha while Immonen, one of the games premiere players, has been eliminated.

The Filipino, though, very nearly gave away the match just when he had it in hand. Gabica, who now works in Qatar as a coach for the national team, had been in control throughout, first going up 4-1, then 8-5, then 10-6. He looked cool and comfortable, while Immonen continually stewed at every bad roll and the boisterous Filipino crowd that cheered his every mistake.

Antonio Gabica has often been viewed by pool fans as an extremely talented player who tends to wilt when it comes to big time pressure situations.

Antonio Gabica has often been viewed by pool fans as an extremely talented player who tends to wilt when it comes to big time pressure situations.

Then, on his way to an emphatic victory, Gabica scratched after pocketing the two ball. The consummate battler, Immonen stepped up and finally got into the match, tying it at 10-10, after making a clutch full table jump shot in the 20th frame.

Gabica broke in the sudden death last rack, and the two proceeded to engage in a prolonged safety battle that lasted for over 20 nerve rattling minutes. The Filipino then sent the partisan crowd into a frenzy with two of the biggest shots of his career. He first pocketed the one ball with a rail first kick, then banked the two ball in cross table. With the fans going gaga, “Ga Ga” had the path to the finish line and the 11-10 victory.

“That’s too much pressure,” Gabica said afterward. “I’m just lucky to win.”

As expected on the first day of the single elimination knockout stage at the World 9-Ball Championship, the heavy pressure and dramatic finishes weren’t confined to one table. England’s Mark Gray found himself on the verge of elimination after being down 10-6 to Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Po Cheng, who has twice been runner up in this event. But the 37 year old Brit toughed it out and managed to tie up the score at 10-10. In the final rack, Gray went offensive on the 4 ball when he could have very easily played safe. The gamble paid off with a hair raising double kiss pot. Gray then had an opening and ran for the finish line and a hard fought 11-10 win.

“I’ve had a really tough draw this whole tournament and I haven’t really gotten in the grove,”Gray said afterward. “ So to be in the final 32 of the World Championship, I’m over the moon.”

Unfortunately for Gray, the road he’s on is about to get even more steep as he next faces the hottest players in the tournament, fellow Englishman Chris Melling.

Melling trounced Hwang Yong of Korea in a match that took just 45 minutes. While the teenager Hwang may have been in a bit over his head, the bottom line is that Melling has been the best player in the world for the last month. And he hasn’t skipped one single beat here in Doha.

“I’m playing unbelievable right now,” Melling said after his match. “I’m breaking good. I’m controlling the cue, getting a shot on the one ball. I’ve missed three balls in this tournament so far. Someone is going to have to play very good to beat me. I’m not trying to be cocky, but you have to have confidence to win this thing. And I’m very confident right now. I’m definitely here to win it.”

In other matches in the first two session today, Shane Van Boening advanced with a comeback win over Russia’s Konstantin Stepanov. Van Boening rallied from a 6-2 deficit and took control of the match late and won 11-8. Van Boening now faces Taiwan’s Chang Jung Lin, who easily beat the Philippines Joven Alba 11-5.

The Philippines Lee Van Corteza had no problems with fellow Filipino Oliver Medenilla, 11-5. Corteza now faces a marquee matchup with another Filipino, Carlo Biado, who continued to look very sharp in beating Iran’s Takhti Zarekani, 11-6.

One of the biggest surprises of the day was the relatively easy victory for Japan’s Lo Li Wen over former world champion Thorsten Hohmann. After starting out with a 4-1 lead, Hohmann simply fell apart, while Lo, who’s playing in his first ever world championship, from said he only missed one ball the entire match. Lo, who’s from Taiwan but lives in Yokohama Japan with his Japanese wife, won going away, 11-7

Lo will now face the Philippines Venancio Tanio, who surprised the Netherland’s Nick Van Den Berg. The Dutchman started out strong against the Filipino overseas worker but then took a back seat as Tanio caught fire, running the rack seven times when he broke. Tanio won the match 11-7.

Sessions 3 and 4 in the round of 64 will take place later in the day. The field will be cut to 32 players after today, and to 4 players after play finishes on Thursday.

The WPA will be providing complete coverage from inside the Al Sadd Sports club throughout the tournament. Fans around the world can follow matches as they happen via our live scoring platform. The live scoring button can be seen on the front page of the WPA’s new and improved website, www.wpa-pool.com . There you can also see the brackets icon which will give you updated standings from each group and the knockout stage.

Fans can also get instant updates, insights and scores by following the WPA on Twitter. Our Twitter user name is @poolwpa. You can go directly to our Twitter page at, http://twitter.com/poolwpa.

In addition, the WPA will be providing insights and analysis with articles posted several times daily on the WPA home page.

To view the brackets for the knockout stage please click here. Or click the Brackets button the home page of the WPA at www.wpa-pool.com Scroll down to the bottom of the PDF file to the see the knockout stage brackets.

Complete results from the first two sessions in the round of 64 are listed below:

1st Session

Ralf Souquet(GER) 11 – 5 Serge Das(Bel)
Mariusz Skoneczny(POL) 11 – 7 Radislaw Babica(POL)
Li Lo Wen(JPN) 11 – 7 Thorsten Hohmann(GER)
Carlo Dalmatin(CRO) 11 – 7 Hsu Kai Lun(TPE)
Lee Van Corteza(PHL) 11 – 5 Oliver Medenilla(PHL)
Vicencio Tanio(PHL) 11 – 7 Nick Van Den Berg(NED)
Yukio Akakariyama(JPN) 11 – 7 Soheil Vahedi(IRI)
Carlo Biado(PHL) 11 – 6 Takhti Zarekani(IRI)

2nd Session

Antonio Gabica(PHL) 11 – 10 Mika Immonen(FIN)
Chris Melling(GBR) 11 – 2 Hwang Yong(KOR)
Darren Appleton(GBR) 11-6 Dang Jin Hu(CHN)
Shane Van Boening(USA) 11- 8 Konstantin Stepanov(RUS)
Naoyuki Oi(JPN) 11- 4 Imran Majid(GBR)
Mark Gray(GBR) 11 – 10 Kuo Po Cheng(TPE)
Allan Cuartero(PHL) 11 – 9 Ahmad Taufiq Binh Murni(BRU)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 11 – 5 Joven Alba(PHL)

Matches for the round of 32 on Thursday

Ralf Souquet vs. Mariusz Skoneczny
Lo Li Wen Vs. Vicencio Tanio
Carlo Dalmatin vs. Yukio Akakariyama
Lee Van Corteza vs. Carlo Biado
Antonio Gabica vs. Naoyuki Oi
Chris Melling vs. Mark Gray
Darren Appleton vs. Alan Cuartero
Shane Van Boening vs. Chang Jun Lin

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