Seeded Players Set to Conclude First Round of U.S. Open Play
Close contests and few surprises dot sprawling 9-ball championships brackets

by Paul Berg, InsidePOOL Magazine Staff
With two time slots for play last night and three of six concluded for today, the 32nd U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships has commenced in traditional hectic fashion. Two hundred and thirty-three billiard players have begun a journey towards the most coveted title on American soil. While the top 16 players from the UPA and WPA have been seeded, some receiving byes into the second round and others seeing their first match time later tonight, other greats from around the world have made early statements.
In the first live Internet broadcast from the Billiard Club Network Chalk-Off Arena, veteran California pro and renowned table mechanic Ernesto Dominguez made short work of New Yorker Frankie Hernandez. After turning in the 11-5 result for the cameras, Dominguez slipped to the front of the Chesapeake Conference Center to watch his son Oscar rally against Atlanta’s Steve Moore. While Moore, whose great rise in 2007 was preceded by an eye-opening 17th-place finish here last year, was able to hold on for an 11-7 victory, the theme of father supporting son would recur the next afternoon.
In a match-up of North Carolinians, second-generation short stop Mike Fuller held off Carolina Amateur Tour terror and fledgling Raleigh poolroom owner Robert Ray 11-9. Fuller’s father Peaches watched intently as his son reversed a mid-match deficit, the elder Fuller with a lucky bye into the second round.
As has been the case for more than a decade, the eyes and ears of railbird prognosticators have been on the matches involving the Filipino contingent. Efren Reyes cruised to an 11-3 victory over Jimmy Faircloth on the television table, his customary warm-up under the lights demanded by fans every year. Rising star and winner of the difficult Turning Stone event this past summer Lee Van Corteza opened with a win by the same score over Shawn Keaton, while countryman Ramil Gallego suffered the first defeat for the Philippines, falling 11-5 to Markus Juva of Finland.
The toughest draws of the first round will play tonight, as the 7 PM match time boasts many intriguing pairings. While the feature match between Tony Robles and Rafael Martinez-Chavez will undoubtedly entertain, many eyes will be on 2002 U.S. Open champion Ralf Souquet as he tackles a well-kept secret from Columbia, SC. “The Surgeon” will have to fade a similar meticulous and deliberate playing style from Scott Rabon, who is one of the country’s best one-pocket players and is fresh off action in his favorite discipline last night at nearby Q-Master Billiards II. Others will certainly eye last year’s runner-up Rodolfo Luat as he plays Florida’s Hunter Lombardo.
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The next match time is no less titillating for a first-rounder. 9-Ball champion and winner at Open promoter Barry Behrman’s First Annual Bill “Weenie Beanie” Staton Memorial 9-ball event in the spring, Dennis Orcollo is among the tournament favorites but will have to top Cliff Joyner just to get out of the gate. World 10-ball champion Shane Van Boening will start the event against young Texan shooter Sylver Ochoa, and many of the other favorites will taste their first tournament action before the night is through. Stay tuned to for all the latest from the 32nd U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships.