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Belgian players rule the world of billiards in 2017

Posted by on December 8, 2017

Belgian players rule the world of billiards in 2017

© Kozoom
Eddy Merckx, one of the three Belgian on the final day after he stopped Tonny Carlsen in the quarters

EL GOUNA - What an unbelievable year is this for the Belgians in billiard. With the double triumph of Frédéric Caudron (gold) and Eddy Merckx (silver) at the World championship in Boliva and Caudron's and Merckx' victories in the World Cups in Bursa and Ho Chi Minh, the year of 2017 was already a year of fame and glory. This year's last World Cup in El Gouna has even increased the hegemony. Eddy Merckx, Frédéric Caudron and Roland Forthomme are in the semi-finals in the Red Sea city, tomorrow. The only player who can still can disrupt the Belgian party is Marco Zanetti.

The World Cup history, in a short period alternated by BWA tournaments, goes back to 1986, when Raymond Ceulemans won the first World Cup in Paris. And in all those years up to now, only one time, three Belgians were on stage. We have to go back to Valkenburg in 1988, where Laurent Boulanger was the winner in the final against Nobuaki Kobayashi and Raymond Ceulemans and Ludo Dielis were the numbers three and four. Three decades later, to be precise for 29 years, the history repeats itself. The Belgian flag is already waving in the stands... and who knows, the final day will turn out into a Belgian victory tomorrow.

Moreover, Frédéric Caudron is the world's number one at the end of this year. And if he is the final winner tomorrow, Caudron is also the winner of the 2017 World Cup cycle. He is the only player who still can threaten Haeng-Jik Kim, the current leader in the ranking.

Eddy Merckx and Marco Zanetti were the first two players to advance for the semi-finals by wins over Tonny Carlsen and Murat Naci Coklu. Frédéric Caudron and Roland Forthomme went to the final rounds in the next session with wins over Haeng-Jik Kim and Dick Jaspers. 47-year old Forthomme is back on top of a World Cup after many years, when he won the World Cups in Volos and Hurghada 11 and 12 years ago. His victory over Dick Jaspers in the quarter-final was outlined at the end of the match, after the score was in balance at 22-22 and 29-29. With the finish in sight, Forthomme's attack was overwhelming: 40-32 in 18 innings.

Frédéric Caudron already made the gap against Haeng-Jik Kim before the break (11-3 and 22-11), increased his lead with a run of 9 in the 18th and was no longer threatened in the final part: 40-21 in 26. Eddy Merckx made an end to the illusions of the revelation of the tournament, Tonny Carlsen. Merckx was superior with scores of 13-4, 36-13, resulting in 40-24 (19) at the finish line.

Still, there is one foreign obstacle for the three Belgians: Marco Zanetti, who holds up the status of his golden generation in his third youth as a top player. The Italian once again showed his incredible fighting spirit in his match against Murat Naci Coklu. After a start with 3, 10 and 5, the Turk led 18-0 after three innings and 20-2 after six!!! But Marco Zanetti has the reputation of a never-give-up fighter. In the second part of the mach, Zanetti came back with runs of 7 (7th inning) and 11 (11th inning), levelled the score to 31-31, missed one match ball at 39-36 and then crowned his come-back in the next inning: 40 -36 in 19 innings.

The semi-finals for Saturday:
11 am (10 am Europe): Merckx-Zanetti
13.00 (12.00 Europe): Caudron-Forthomme.

The early sessions of the day, with the last sixteen, was already coloured Belgian with three of the four players to continue. But most of all it was the round in which Tonny Carlsen gave his World Cup performance even more shine by a victory over Dani Sánchez in a breathtaking finish (40-39). The former Spanish world champion lost a big lead in that match (20-11 in ten), when Carlsen equalized four innings later (20-20). There was a 32-32 as well, the Dane then attacked (35-33 and 39-35) and put Sánchez under pressure with his last carom at 40-35. The final effort of the Spaniard only missed the equalizer. The position for his last was risky: Dani had to play with his 'wrong hand'. The cue ball, after a long way, went around the red ball near the long cushion. Tonny Carlsen was rewarded with a well deserved applause.

The last Asian to survive, Haeng-Jik Kim, played the best match in that round in sixteen innings. The furious start of the ever young Korean knocked down Nikos Polychronopoulos after five innings (22-7). The gap was almost closed by the Greek (after a run of 9 to 22-17). The best final sprint came from Kim, who took the win after 32-26 with six and two: 40-30 in 15.

Frédéric Caudron needed a strong counter against Birol Uymaz after he was down 15-7 in 6 innings. The Belgian then slowly came back to lead 21-18, after which Caudron controlled the second part. The final sprint was magisterial: a final run of 18, which put the stunned Turkish coming-man on a hopeless score: 40-20 in 16. Eddy Merckx didn't kowtow too much to the player with whom he played the final at the World championship. Jérémy Bury missed the start and was edged by his opponent with runs of 8 and 6, leading up to 18-6, 30-9 and 35-11. The revival with a run of 10 (21-38) came too late for Bury. Merckx handed out the knockout at 40-25 in 17 innings.

For Roland Forthomme it seemed like a simple walk-over to defeat the self-struggling Dong-Koong Kang. The Belgian led 8-0, 16-5 and 20-6 (17th inning), didn't feel any opposition at all and closed the match at 40-18 in 28. Kang only sprang to life in the equalizer and scored nine for 40-27.

The second Spaniard, Juan David Zapata, had a better wake-up than Dick Jaspers (14-5 in 9), but suddenly stagnated when the Dutchman found his rhythm. Jaspers scored 30 times from the 10th to the 18th inning, Zapata only twice in his last 9 innings: 40-16 in 18. Murat Naci Coklu and Eddy Leppens went together to the break (the Belgian leading 20-16). In the second part, Coklu ran away with 12 (31-21) and won 40-35 in 26. Marco Zanetti showed a clear dominance from the start against Sameh Sidhom, made some high-class points at times and finished pretty easily, 40-31 in 30.

Roland Forthomme, back on top in a World Cup after victory over Dick Jaspers

Frédéric Caudron shakes hands with Haeng-Jik Kim after his victory in the quarters

Frédéric Caudron, in the race for the overall World Cup win

Marco Zanetti in his match with Sameh Sidhom

And again Marco Zanetti: ready for the battle with the Belgians

Roland Forthomme, full focus in his quarter final match

Eddy Merckx, world's silver, World Cup win and again on stage

Dick Jaspers, outplayed by Roland Forthomme

Murat Naci Coklu, big lead against Marco Zanetti, who had the better final sprint

Tonny Carlsen, farewell to the World Cup after great performance






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