OH, WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
IT’S THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT AS JUDGEMENT DAY TAKES ITS TOLL AT THE CHINA OPEN 9-BALL
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
Photos Courtesy of Jin Li / TOP147.com
(Shanghai)–There’s nothing quite like Judgement Day in the world of professional pool. Otherwise known as the Day of Reckoning, it’s when dozens upon dozens of matches take place in the group stages, all trying to determine who will still be around for the money rounds, and who will be sent packing without a dime to spend on even a soft drink. Yes, pool can be a cruel sport, but it’s also the reason those who follow it love the action. Sometimes whole careers ride on the smallest turn of the ball.
And so it was on Day 2 of the 2013 China Open in rainy Shanghai. Inside the cavernous and chilly Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium arena, the emotions were running on overdrive with the world’s best men and women pool players each desperately trying to reach the single elimination knockout stage of their respective tournaments which begin in earnest Saturday.
For the men, their field began with 64 players on day 1 and has now been whittled down to 32. For the women, the field started with 48 players and is now down to the final 16.
Few were immune to the drama today. World 9-ball Champion and world number 3 Darren Appleton thought he was cruising through to the knockout stage as he was up 7-3 in a race to 9 on the TV table against China’s 19 year up and comer Wang Can. But Can, who has spent some time playing pool in the US, turned the tables on the Brit and stormed back and grabbed an 8-7 lead. Appleton went from counting his chickens, to realizing he might have to play again later to stave off a shock elimination. But if anyone can play with their back against the wall it’s Appleton, and the 9-ball king grit his teeth and pulled out the win to advance.
Appleton was clearly ecstatic afterwards and said he was nearly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment.
“I was under serious pressure at the end,” he said. “It was like a semi-final at the world championship.”
Appleton has few if any weaknesses in his stellar game, but he revealed that he sometimes lets his attention lapse when he gets a big lead.
“In every major tournament I’ve won I never make it easy. I consider myself a bulldog, a fierce player. I like to scrap, sort of like a counter puncher in boxing. But when I have a big lead I tend to lose that intensity. I need that scrap. My mindset was when I was 8-7 down that I will probably dog the shot, so I might as well go for it. I need to sort out my attitude when I get a big lead.”
While Appleton went off to breath easy, Cam had to do it all over again, this time against Dutch star Niels Feijen. Feijen had lost his first match yesterday against the former two time world champion Wu Jiaqing(formerly Wu Chia Ching) who now lives and plays out of Shenzen, China. Feijen had earlier beat his good friend and countryman Nick Van Den Berg in a do or die match, 9-7. Against Can, Feijen was up 8-5, but Can fought his way back to tie it at 8 for a one rack decider. Feijen pulled it out to advance while Can was left to wonder what might have been.
The pressure matches kept popping up around the arena. Greece’s Nick Ekonomopolous, who had earlier lost to Wu, went hill-hill with Venezuela’s Jalal Yousef, who was sure he was about to claim one of his biggest scalps. But a fluked 4-ball off a jump propelled the burly Greek into the knockout stages, while Yousef stormed out of the arena in disgust.
Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann advanced but not without some heart palpitations, as he won two straight hill-hill matches. Hohmann’s countryman, Hall of Famer Ralf Souquet, had to battle back from the losers side and barely got by China’s Liu Haitao in a do or die match, 9-8.
The Philippines’ two biggest stars played drama free as defending champion Dennis Orcollo advanced to the final 32 with an airtight 9 – 7 win over Austria’s young gun Albin Ouschan 9-7. Lee Van Corteza also advanced with his second straight, a 9-6 win over Vietnam’s Do The Kien.
The Philippines’ Jeffrey De Luna will surely be trying to forget Judgement Day. De Luna flew to China without a place in the tournament and won one of the brutally tough qualifiers earlier in the week. Yesterday De Luna was millimetres away from a spot in the money rounds, only to lose on the last ball. Then today, playing against fellow Pinoy Carlo Biado, De Luna squandered his fortune again losing 9-8 after up being 8-7. Biado advance and De Luna hit the road.
The Philippines’ fourth player in the final 32 has turned quite a few heads in the last few days and is definitely worth a mention. Johann Chua, who originally hails from Bacolod City but has resided in Manila for the last ten years, is one of those gems that periodically emerges from the Philippines bustling pool halls. Chua’s aggressive, confident style and dead eyed stroke had even the partisan Chinese fans talking.
To give you an idea of his confidence, Chua, like De Luna, came to China without a spot in the tournament and won a qualifier to earn a place in the main event.
After easily beating Chinese Zeng Zhaodong 9-3 on day 1, Chua tangled with WPA world number 6 Ko Pin Yi of Taiwan. Despite the fact that Ko had much more world class experienc, Chua played and acted to Ko’s equal and, indeed, he took the match to a one rack decider before falling 9-8.
Not to be deterred, Chua then came right back and booked his spot in the final 32 with a resounding 9-1 pounding of the strong Albanian, Nick Malaj.
Afterward Chua revealed that he’s been playing pool for ten years, mostly gambling in Manila’s hard core money-game scene and entering tournaments when he can. In November, 2012 he took 3rd place in the prestigious All Japan Open. What’s great about Chua is that he plays and thinks aggressively, and clearly has the game to back it up.
“I’m an aggressive player because you have to be aggressive here, there are a lot of good players. Pool is my life. I love pool.”
Chua’s biggest test to date comes right out of the gates on Saturday. He plays defending champion and fellow Pinoy Orcollo in the round of 32.
Perhaps the strongest looking contingent so far have been the players from Taiwan, who bring seven players into the final 32, all of them extremely capable. It would be surprising not to see a player from Taiwan in the semi-finals.
On the women’s side, the script went nearly to plan as most of the sport’s biggest stars have booked their spot in the final 16. Defending champion Kelly Fisher was down 4-1 to the legend Pan Xiaoting in front of a packed house on the TV table. Fisher, though, caught one of her now famous gears and ran Pan off the table, 7-4.
Pan then went to the losers side and lost to Japan’s Chichiro Kawahara to exit stage left from the building, much to the disappointment of her legions of fanatical fans. Another marquee matchup then took place on the TV table as Hall of Famer Allison Fisher went to the brink with World 10-ball champion Ga Young Kim. Fisher took the match 7 – 6, sending Kim out of the tournament.
Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan looks the goods as she easily advanced to the final 16 with two straight wins.
Both the women’s and men’s single elimination knockout stages begin on Saturday at 1:30pm Shanghai time(GMT +8). The men are playing race to 11 alternate break, while the women are playing race to 9, alternate break.
The women’s final will be played on Sunday with $30,000 going to the winner. The men’s semi-finals and finals will be played on Sunday as well with $40,000 going to the winner. The total prize fund is $301,000.
*The 2013 China Open in Shanghai, China runs from May 12-19 and is sanctioned by the World Pool & Billiard Association(WPA). 64 men and 48 women will compete in separate 9-ball events. The China Open is a WPA ranking event. The main event begins on May 16 and run through May 19.
The WPA will be providing full coverage of the 2013 China Open via its website at www.wpapool.com, and through Facebook at www.facebook.com/WpaChinaOpen. The WPA will be providing live scoring of all matches, daily articles and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner, and photographs. Fans can also follow the event through Twitter; @poolwpa.
The 2013 China Open will be streamed online through several Chinese websites. The WPA will be providing the links through our Facebook page as we receive them.
Mens Draw For Saturday(Listed in order)
Chang Pei Wei(TPE) vs Do The Kien(VIE)
Zheng Yu Xuan(TPE) vs. Afrinneza Isral Nasution(IND)
Lee Van Corteza(PHL) vs. Albin Ouschan(AUT)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) vs. HAN Haoxiang (CHN)
Radislaw Babica(POL) vs. Omar Al Shaheen(KUW)
Karl Boyes(GBR) vs.Salaheldeen Hussein Alrimawi(UAE)
Fu Che Wei(TPE) vs. Chris Melling(GBR)
Dennis Orcollo(PHL) vs. Johann Chua(PHL)
Li Hewen(CHN) vs. Niels Feijen(NED)
Ke Bing Zhong(TPE) vs. Chen Tsung Hua(TPE)
Ryu Seungwoo(KOR) vs. Carlo Biado(PHL)
Fu Jianbo(CHN) vs. Chang Jung Lin(TPE)
Women’s Draw For Satuday(Listed in order)
Kelly Fisher(GBR) vs Tsai Pei Chen(TPE)
Lin Yuan Jun(TPE) vs. Lan Hiushan(TPE)
Fu Xiaofang(CHN) vs Bi Zhuqing(CHN)
Chichiro Kawahara(JPN) vs. Liu Shasha(CHN)
Tan Ho Yun(TPE) vs. Allison Fisher(GBR)
Gao Meng(CHN) vs Chou Chieh Yu(TPE)
Day 2 Men’s, 1st Session Results
Darren Appleton(GBR) 9 – 8 Wang Can(CHN)
Wu Jiaqing(CHN) 9 – 7 Nick Ekonomonopoulos(GRE)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 9 – 8 Johann Chua(PHL)
Lee Van Corteza(PHL) 9 – 6. Do The Kien(VIE)
Nick Malai(ALB) 9 – 7 Tursaikhan Amarjargal(MGL)
Chu Bingjie(CHN) 9 – 4 Zeng Zhaodong(CHN)
Chang Pei Wei(TPE) 9 – 3 Ralf Souquet(GER)
Radoslaw Babica(POL) 9 – 7 Chang Yulong(TPE)
Hunter Lombardo(USA) 9 – 3 Zbynek Vaic(RSA)
Liu Haitao(CHN) 9 – 3 Bashar Hussain(QAT)
Dennis Orcollo(PHL) 9-7 Albin Ouschan(AUT)
Cheng Tsugn-Hwa(TPE) 9 -7 Daryl Peach(GBR)
Zheng Yu Xuan(TPE) 9 – 3 James Delahunty(AUS)
Huidji See(NED) 9 – 7 Alejandro Carvajal(CHI)
Final Matches in Men’s Losers Bracket
Group A Losers Bracket
Omar Al Shaheen(KUW) 9 -8 Zhu Xihe(CHN)
Han Haoxiang(CHN) 9 – 3 Chu Hung Ming(TPE)
Group B Losers Bracket
Thorsten Hohmann(GER) 9 – 8 Hguyen Anh Tuan(VIE)
Yukio Akagariyama(JPN) 9 -4 Ko Pin Chung(TPE)
Group C Losers Bracket
Fu Jianbo(CHN) 9 – 4 Kenny Kwok(HGK)
Karl Boyes(GBR) 9 – 6 Dang Jinhu(GBR)
Group D Losers Bracket
Carlo Biado(PHL) 9 -8 Jeffrey De Luna(PHL) vs
Chris Melling(GBR) 9 – 7 John Morra(CAN)
Group E Losers Bracket
Nick Ekonomopoulos(GRE) 9 – 8 Jalal Yousef(VEN)
Niels Feijen(NED) 9 – 8 Wang Can(CHN)
Group F Losers Bracket
Do The Kien(VIE) 9 – 3 Chu Bingjie(CHN)
Johann Chua(PHL) 9 – 1 Nick Malai(ALB)
Group G Losers Bracket
Chang Yu Lung(TPE) 9 – 2 Hunter Lombardo(USA)
Ralf Souquet(GER) 9 – 8 Liu Haitao(CHN)
Group H Losers Bracket
Zheng Yu Xuan(TPE) 9 – 7 Daryl Peach(GBR)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 9 – 6 Huidji See(NED)