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DESERT STORM SWEEPS INTO THE FINAL 64
© Ted Lerner
A RECORD FOUR KUWAITIS MAKE THE CUT AS THE 2012 WORLD 9-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP HEADS INTO THE KNOCKOUT STAGE
By Ted Lerner
(Doha, Qatar)--Judgment Day at the 2012 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar lived up to expectations as the pool gods passed down plenty of surprising verdicts and left us with a final 64 that promises an all-time classic shootout for pool's biggest prize.
Pool fans around the globe can now look forward to three solid days of one intriguing match after the next, as the road to the world title picks up a massive head of steam. All the matches now become a race to 11, alternate break. The semi-finals and final will take place on June 29th, with the final being a race to 13.
Not surprisingly, the Philippines brings the largest contingent into the single elimination stage, with a power house lineup of 13 players out of their 17 original entries having qualified. Taiwan has put in its usual impressive performance with seven of its players having gone through. Japan has looked extremely strong so far and six players in the final 64 are a testament to a high grade effort on the table for the Japanese.
Two surprising developments so far point to a massive shift in the global pool landscape. The USA will have no representation in the final 64 of the World 9-ball Championship, while the tiny country of Kuwait will have four players competing for glory.
Indeed the pool world seemed to be turned upside down from the opening rack inside the cool confines of the Al Sadd Sports Club on Tuesday as a handful of big names were given their walking papers straight away.
England's Chris Melling was surely on nearly everyone's list as one of a handful of guys you'd expect to see go deep into this tournament. But after losing to the Philippines underrated Jundel Mazon on Day 1, Melling had to face another rising prospect in Nikolaos Malaj from Albania in a make or break match.
Unfortunately for Melling the 25 year old Malaj, who actually resides in Athens, Greece, is where the Brit was just a few short years ago; hungry for success and with plenty of game to make his dreams come true. Malaj was down 5-2 but pounced on one mistake by Melling, then confidently marched to the finish line with a strong 9-6 victory.
"I know all these guys and they're all good," Malaj said after his impressive win. "But I'm not scared of anyone. I know I can beat all of them. Why not? It's just one match."
The USA's Shane Van Boening said earlier in the day that winning the World 9-ball Championship would be his highest accomplishment in pool. But Van Boening's dream of 9-ball supremacy will have to wait yet another year as he was steamrolled by the Philippines' Mazon. The 36 year old Mazon, who resides in Cavite outside of Manila, has quietly worked his way into being a top tier player in the Philippines and has the goods to go far in this event.
The bloodbath for some of pool's top names didn't stop there. The Netherland's Niels Feijen looked set to qualify as he led Japan's Naoyuki Oi 8-5. But Oi stormed back and won the match at the wire, 9-8.
China's Fu Jian Bo trailed his entire match against Vietnamese newcomer with the rather hip-hop sounding name, Do The Kein. Do never flinched against the more experienced Fu and won handily 9-5.
Finland's Mika Immonen nearly faced the wrath of the pool gods too as he was taken to the absolute limit by a very tough Iranian player, Ali Pordel. At 8-all and with just four balls left on the table, Immonen pocketed a near impossible half table bank in the corner on the six ball to clinch the match and a spot in the final 64.
"I'm feeling super, super relieved right now," the two time former world champion said. "I make that six ball, I win. I miss it, I lose."
When asked what he thought about the volume of new talent emerging at this year's championship, Immonen wasn't ready to give up his elite mantle just yet.
"Well, you have the old guard guys and then you have a lot of the new guys. They play good that's for sure. But we'll see how they hold up under the pressure."
Easily one of the best stories to come out of this year's World 9-ball Championship is the marked improvement of players from the Middle East, especially Kuwait. The Kuwaitis are surely no fluke as they play strong and confident pool. This was exemplified by Khaled Al Mutairi in his early match against European number one, Dimitri Jungo of Switzerland.
The two fought tooth and nail the entire match and any regular observer of the game had to figure it would be the Kuwaiti who would fold. But with the pressure nearly unbearable late in the match, Al Mutairi showed impressive fortitude. Tied at 8, he lost position on the 8-ball, but proceeded to pocket a three quarter table length thin cut shot to seal the victory.
The four Kuwaiti players in the knockout stage marks the first time ever Kuwait has had any player reach the round of 64 in a World 9-ball Championship. So how did Kuwait start to produce such good pool talent?
According to team manager Mohammed Al-Sulaiman, billiard sports are massively supported by the government in Kuwait. All the team members keep regular jobs working in some government ministry but train regularly and enter plenty of local, regional and international events. Four Kuwaitis even traveled to the US last year to compete in the prestigious US Open. Kuwait has won Arab and Gulf championships and taken home a slew of medals at regional Olympic-type competitions.
"Other pool players know who we are and that we are good players," Al Mutrairi said. "But people and fans outside of Kuwait don't know that we can play."
They certainly do now.
The WPA will be providing full up to the minute coverage of the 2012 World 9-ball Championship via its website at www.wpapool.com. There you can follow the action through our live scoring platform, articles with insights and analysis, and updated brackets. Fans can also get updates via the WPA Twitter page, @poolwpa.com.
Fans can also access live scoring through the official website of the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation at: http://www.qbsf.net/en/live_score.php.
*The World Pool And Billiard Association(WPA) is the international governing body of the sport of pocket billiards.
The prize breakdown is as follows:
Champion - $40,000
Runner-up - $20,000
3- 4 - $12,000
17-32 - $3,500
65-96 - $1000 (loser of 2nd round in the loser's bracket of Stage 2)
Total - $300,000
The 2012 WPA World 9-ball Championship
Sponsored by - Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC)
Co-sponsored by - Simonis (cloth)
Organized by - Qatar Billiards & Snooker Federation (QBSF)
Sanctioned by - World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) & Asian Pocket
Billiard Union (APBU)
Official hotel; The Wyndam Grand Regency
Simonis 860 Cloth, Electric Blue Color.
Aramith Super Pro TV Ball
Day 4 Results
All Matches are Losers Side of the Groups.
Winner move on to the final 64. The losers are out of the tournament
Al Awadi Bader(KUW) 9 - 2 Mohamad Ali Berjaoui(LIB)
Huidji See(NED) 9 - 8 Vincente Loyme(PHI)
Mika Immonen(FIN) 9 - 8 Ali Pordel(IRI)
Hsu Kai Lun(TPE) 9 - 7 Ramil Gallego(PHI)
Nikolaos Malaj(ALB) 9 - 6 Chris Melling(GBR)
Jundel Mazon(PHI) 9 - Shane Van Boening(USA)
Chao Fong Pang(TPE) 9 - 4 Majid Waleed(UAE)
Le He Wen(CHN) 9 - 1 Roman Hybler(CZE)
Do The Kein(VIE) 9 - 5 Fu Jianbo(CHN)
Takashi Uraoka(JPN) 9 - 7 Karlo Dalmatin(CRO)
Naoyuki Ohi(JPN) 9 - 8 Niels Feijen(NED)
Al Mutairi, Khaled GH(KUW) 9 - 8 Dimitri Jungo(SUI)
Yang Ching Shun(TPE) 9 - 4 Jalal Yousef(VEN)
Ryu Seung Woo(KOR) 9 - 5 Albin Ouschan(AUT)
Omar AlShaheen(KUW) 9 - 7 Lee Chen Man(HKG)
Serge Das (BEL) 9 - 6 Hayato Hijikata(JPN)
Lo Li Wen(JPN) 9 - 2 Bozidar Primic(CRO)
Mateusz Sniegocki(POL) Abdulla Al Yousef(KUW)
Yukio Akagariyama(JPN) 9 - 7 Takhti Zarekani(IRI)
Dominic Jentsch(GER) 9 - 5 Mohammed Saed Saed(QAT)
Bruno Muratore(ITA) 9 - 5 Abdul Majed BAshar Hussain(QAT)
Elvis Calasang(PHI) 9 - 7 Al Amar Abdul Rahman(KSA)
Mario He(AUT) 9 - Ali Alobaidy(QAT)
Liu Haitao(CHN) 9 - Imran Majid(GBR)
Andrea Klasovic(SRB) 9 - 3 Hunter Lombardo(USA)
Toh Lian Han(SIN) 9 - 8 Denis Grabe(EST)
Toru Kuribayashi(JPN) 9 - 4 Francisco Diaz Pizarro(ESP)
Marlon Caneda(PHI) 9 - 3 Ceri Worts(NZL)
Ryouji Hori(JPN) 9 - 4 Oliver Ortmann(GER)
Dennis Orcullo(PHI) 9 - 2 Raymund Faraon(PHI)
Joven Alba(PHI) 9 - 5 Afou Nayf Abdel(JOR)
Israel Rota(PHI) 9 - 7 David Anderson(RSA)
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