Van Boening and Mekari reach U.S. Open Winners’ Finale
Four remain for final day of play; Alcano and Souquet seek another shot

By Paul Berg, InsidePOOL Magazine Staff
With the last match of play on day six of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships concluding shortly after 4:30 AM here in Chesapeake, VA, four male billiard players representing four different countries have weathered the field of 233 entrants. With a chance to erase any doubt about the strength of the field in his World 10-Ball Championship victory this past summer, Shane Van Boening has reached the winners’ bracket final undefeated. His opponent will be unheralded Tomoki Mekari of Japan, who held his place on the A-side despite the grimmest of deficits in his evening matches.
Van Boening claimed his fifth and sixth victories of the Open11-8 over Corey Deuel and 11-4 over Ronato Alcano. World 10-ball credentials trumped reigning World 9-Ball champion status, as the South Dakotan was in clear command throughout his bout with the Filipino. Breaking and running twice consecutively on three occasions, Van Boening had obviously mastered his break on the Billiard Club Network live webcast table, while Alcano had trouble on his handful of opportunities snapping. Alcano found little help from Van Boening, who only made one significant error with a botched 2ball safety early on. In the end, Van Boening cleared the table after Alcano missed a tough 3ball trailing 9-4, and then broke and ran once more for the resounding 11-4 ticket to the last day of play unblemished.
Mekari’s two evening affairs were much more dicey. First, facing Atlanta resident Louis Ulrich, Mekari clawed out of a 9-4 hole. In one of two weak stretches in an otherwise stupendous tournament, Ulrich failed to either complete a runout or gain an edge in a safety battle, and Mekari improbably took seven straight and an improbable 11-9 win. Ralf “The Surgeon” Souquet was fresh off an 11-5 dissection of Dennis “The Menace” Orcollo and waited in the wings, picking up where he left off the previous set by breaking and running the first three against Mekari. Nonplussed, the Japanese steadily climbed back into the match, Souquet helping with three errors, each antithetical to his sterling play throughout the event. Once missing position, then failing in a safety, Souquet watched as Mekari tied the match at seven, and then took his first lead when Souquet missed a routine 3ball in the side. They traded racks from there, and Mekari broke and ran out the last two to reach the hot seat match with a resounding 11-8 triumph.
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Neither Alcano nor Souquet was willing to settle for a tie for fifth place. Ulrich bounced back with large margins of victory over James Walden and Orcollo, but would fall flat for a second time in a tournament where you need your best for last. Missing often against a runout machine like Alcano is a recipe for disaster, and while the Filipino heir to Efren Reyes magic did not resolve the troubles with his hard smashing break, he still shot like his idol on his way to a 10-0 edge. Ulrich managed to runout and break and run two more, but he scratched on the next break, and Alcano put Ulrich out in a tie for fifth, clearing there for an 11-3 result.
Souquet will face Alcano in the quarter-final, having actually eliminated an opponent after dealing five others their first loss. The German entered the one-loss side against a man who had ended the 32nd Open for eleven others already. Ramil Gallego lost his first round match 11-7 to Helsinki’s Markus Juva, and had since toppled three greats from his own country and contenders from a few others. Eliminating Francisco Bustamante, Thorsten Hohman, Mike Davis, Efren Reyes and Jose Parica back to back, Gallego then ended the hopes of Deuel, and had another past Open champion in his path for his seventh and final match of day six.
US Open Tournament Bracket A1
US Open Tournament Bracket A2
US Open Tournament Bracket B1
US Open Tournament Bracket B2
Despite an impressive rally from 7-2 deficit to a 7-up knot, Gallego succumbed in the end to a pair of monster break and runs by Souquet after rattling the 1ball up the rail with his first lead. Gallego could only watch as his long trek came up two measly 9balls short, Souquet making five balls on the last break and sealing the deal 11-9 while Gallego rested his weary feet in the chair, fire in his eyes as the last ball fell and placed him in a tie for fifth. Tomorrow at 1 PM, the last standing past Open champion will try the remaining Pinoy hopeful, while Van Boening and Mekari will try to put themselves in the final race to 13 with fifty grand and a green jacket to the victor. Stay tuned to InisdePOOLmag.com for updates from the final day of the U.S. Open tomorrow.