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World Pool’s stars into KO stage
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
DOHA, QATAR — A veritable armada of pool’s biggest stars pushed their way through to the Final 64 knockout stage at the Al Arabi Sports Club in Doha today, as the business end of proceedings quickly started to take shape at the 2018 World 9-ball Championship.
It was a very busy day which saw 32 players qualify for the money rounds, and another 32 players see their dreams of glory come to a screeching halt.
Of course it was quite expected when the tournament began on Friday that over half the original field of 128 players from over 40 countries had no chance at actually winning the event. But the outcomes today were somewhat surprising in that we saw few of the upsets fans have come to expect in the group stages over the years. The only big name to fall by the wayside and get a pink slip was 2001 World 9-ball Champion and Hall of Famer Mika Immonen, who lost his second straight match in as many days.
World number one Klenti Kaci hasn’t looked his sharpest so far. But the 19-year-old Albanian did what he had to do in a steady 9-6 win over Kuwaiti Meshaal Al Murdhi.
Defending champion Carlo Biado of the Philippines seemed to be on cruise control in his 9-5 win over Russia’s Sergey Lutsker. Despite being the reigning 9-ball king, the Filipino great benefits from being so humble and so low key that he plays almost unnoticed.
The biggest winners Saturday in terms of countries was Taiwan, which saw a whopping seven of its players qualify for the round of 64. 2015 World 9-ball champion Ko Pin Yi looked the goods today as he handily beat Czech Republic’s Roman Hybler, 9-4. 2017 semi-finalist Lin Wu Kun grinded out a solid 9–7 victory over former champion Yukio Akagariyama of Japan. Ko’s younger brother Ko Ping Chung took a 9–6 win over Greece’s Nikolas Malai. Hsieh Chia Chen beat Russian strongman Ruslan Chinhov 9-8 to make it through. Lui Ri Ten beat American Billy Thorpe 9-7 to make it through.
The USA’s Shane Van Boening, who is one of the heavy favorites this week in Doha, didn’t have as easy a time today as he did on day one. But he was never in real trouble against Venezuelan veteran Jalal Al Sarisi, winning 9-7. SVB’s Mosconi Cup teammate Corey Duel played steady 9-ball and easily defeated Finland’s Petri Makkonen 9-4 to make the knockout stage.
World number six and 2014 champion Niels Feijen had another solid day, defeating Spain’s Francisco Diaz-Pizarro, 9-7. The Dutchman’s Mosconi teammate Albin Ouschan didn’t fare as well as he took a thumping from Poland’s Konrad Juszczyszyn, 9-4. Juszczyszyn may not be a household name to pool fans but it should be noted that he is the current European 9-ball champion. Another Pole who scored a very big victory was Mateusz Sniegocki who took down a very tough Filipino, Jeffrey Ignacio, 9-5. Tomasz Kaplan made it three for Poland today with a win over South Africa’s Jason Theron.
It was good day for the Germans as both Ralf Souquet and Joshua Filler won their second straight matches to qualify for the final 64. 18-year-old Russian Fedor Gorst continued to impress as he qualified with a handy 9-1 win over Jeong Young Hwa of Korea.
It was a very big day for the Japanese side as three players made it through with impressive wins. Takano Tomoo took down former world champion Wu Jiaqing 9-8. Naoyuki Oi was a 9–4 winner over Finland’s Casper Matikainen. And Tomoya Iima took a 9-7 win over Hoang Guong Quoc of Vietnam.
Other winners who qualified for the knockout rounds included the Philippines’ Jeffrey De Luna, Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp, Canada’s Alex Pagulayan, Myanmar’s talented Phone Myint Kyaw, Spain’s Fracisco Sanchez Ruiz, Greece’s Alex Kazakis, China’s Wang Can and Russia’s Konstantin Stepanov.
Chris Melling, the lone Brit in the field, again looked the goods as he easily beat South Africa’s Richard Halliday, 9-3. Qatar’s Waleed Majid also won his second straight to make it through, beating China’s Xu Xiacong, 9-6.
Play continues on Sunday in Doha at the Al Arabi with the action beginning at 12 p.m. local time(GMT +3.) All matches on Sunday will be do or die, losers side matches with the winners advancing to the knockout round and the losers going out of the event.
The winner of the 2018 World 9-ball Championship will receive $40,000. The runner up will receive $20,000. The total prize fund is $200,000.