Day Four at Philippine Open
Souquet, Liu advance to Final Four
by Frederico Makabenta

The first two seats in the Final Four of the Philippine Open Pool Championships are now already reserved for Ralf Souquet of Germany and Liu Haitao of China. The two asserted their dominance Sunday by pulling off two more wins to stay unscathed in this WPA-sanctioned tournament. They are the only undefeated players in the tournament.

Souquet, a double world champion and former world No.1 player, outlasted Darren Appleton in a hill-hill encounter, 9-8, in their round-of-16 match. The German ace formalized his entry in the semifinal round after subduing compatriot and bosom buddy Thorsten Hohmann, 9-2, in their quarterfinal showdown. Liu, on the other hand, squeaked past Filipino Antonio Lining in a 9-8 decision.

But the biggest news of the day happened a few minutes before night time when the up-and-coming Carlo Biado ousted newly-crowned World 8-Ball champion Dennis Orcullo, 9-7. “Less ang pressure sa akin ngayon and medyo masama rin ang laro ni Dennis,” said Biado. (“The pressure is less on me, and Dennis is a little off today.)

philippine open final four Souquet and Liu Advance at Philippine Open

The first two seats in the Final Four of the Philippine Open Pool Championships are now already reserved for Souquet of Germany and Liu of China.

One of those mistakes proved to be crucial. A miscalculated position play on the 5-ball forced Orcullo to take a difficult shot, which he missed. Biado pounced on the opportunity and wrapped up the match. He added the country’s No.1 bet in the international pool circuit to his growing list of victims.

If there’s one player who’s definitely in a zone, it’s Souquet. He has won five straight games, including two in convincing fashion over top-rated opponents. His performance in two of the last three games appeared to be an indication the veteran cue artist is determined to win his first-ever crown on Philippine soil. “I’ve been in the finals of a major pool tournament three times and didn’t win any of those. I’ve been knocking on the door for a championship, but I wasn’t successful. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance this time,” said Souquet.

Asked whether winning over Hohmann was easy, Souquet thought otherwise. “From the score, it looks like I had an easy win, but it’s never been easy as we had several exchanges of safety shots and I was just able to take advantage on Thorsten’s three missed shots,” said Souquet. The former World 8-Ball and 9-Ball champion has yet to fully recover from shoulder and back injuries he suffered while going on tour for the past several months. At least for the next three games, Souquet was able to get his mind off them.

“As long as I can stay focused, I think I’ll have a good shot winning this tournament,” added Souquet. “I’m still feeling it (injuries) just a little bit, but I’m trying to get my mind off it. But to win, you need to have luck as well. It plays a big factor in winning a championship.”

Unlike Souquet, who breezed past his opponent, Liu had to carve out a win the hard way. The Chinese cue artist fought back from the verge of elimination to turn back Lining. Down 6-8, Liu had to pounce on one of the few mistakes made by Lining. The 47-year-old Filipino missed the No. 5 at the corner in the 15th rack. Liu was able to capitalize and cleaned up the remaining balls to stay within striking distance, 7-8. Liu then ran out the next two racks in completing a come-from-behind win and dealing Lining his first setback in five matches. The Filipino player was relegated to the loser’s bracket.

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