Double Trouble IN Doha Billiards Event

GABICA OUSTS IMMONEN, GRAY DOWNS KUO IN 11-10 THRILLERS AT THE WORLD 9-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP IN QATAR

Story and Photo by Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)–Antonio Gabica has often been viewed by pool fans as an extremely talented player who tends to wilt when it comes to big time pressure situations. But to the man known as “Ga Ga” to his fellow Filipinos, that moniker now sits forever at the bottom of the nearest trash can at the Al Sadd Sports Club.

Gabica stepped up in the biggest way possible under massive pressure this afternoon and defeated former World Champion Mika Immonen 11-10 in a dramatic finish in the round of 64 at the 2011 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar. Gabica now advances to the final 32 tomorrow in Doha while Immonen, one of the games premiere players, has been eliminated.

The Filipino, though, very nearly gave away the match just when he had it in hand. Gabica, who now works in Qatar as a coach for the national team, had been in control throughout, first going up 4-1, then 8-5, then 10-6. He looked cool and comfortable, while Immonen continually stewed at every bad roll and the boisterous Filipino crowd that cheered his every mistake.

gabica world 9ball World 9 Ball Championship Heats up

Antonio Gabica has often been viewed by pool fans as an extremely talented player who tends to wilt when it comes to big time pressure situations.

Then, on his way to an emphatic victory, Gabica scratched after pocketing the two ball. The consummate battler, Immonen stepped up and finally got into the match, tying it at 10-10, after making a clutch full table jump shot in the 20th frame.

Gabica broke in the sudden death last rack, and the two proceeded to engage in a prolonged safety battle that lasted for over 20 nerve rattling minutes. The Filipino then sent the partisan crowd into a frenzy with two of the biggest shots of his career. He first pocketed the one ball with a rail first kick, then banked the two ball in cross table. With the fans going gaga, “Ga Ga” had the path to the finish line and the 11-10 victory.

“That’s too much pressure,” Gabica said afterward. “I’m just lucky to win.”

As expected on the first day of the single elimination knockout stage at the World 9-Ball Championship, the heavy pressure and dramatic finishes weren’t confined to one table. England’s Mark Gray found himself on the verge of elimination after being down 10-6 to Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Po Cheng, who has twice been runner up in this event. But the 37 year old Brit toughed it out and managed to tie up the score at 10-10. In the final rack, Gray went offensive on the 4 ball when he could have very easily played safe. The gamble paid off with a hair raising double kiss pot. Gray then had an opening and ran for the finish line and a hard fought 11-10 win.

“I’ve had a really tough draw this whole tournament and I haven’t really gotten in the grove,”Gray said afterward. “ So to be in the final 32 of the World Championship, I’m over the moon.”

Unfortunately for Gray, the road he’s on is about to get even more steep as he next faces the hottest players in the tournament, fellow Englishman Chris Melling.

Melling trounced Hwang Yong of Korea in a match that took just 45 minutes. While the teenager Hwang may have been in a bit over his head, the bottom line is that Melling has been the best player in the world for the last month. And he hasn’t skipped one single beat here in Doha.

“I’m playing unbelievable right now,” Melling said after his match. “I’m breaking good. I’m controlling the cue, getting a shot on the one ball. I’ve missed three balls in this tournament so far. Someone is going to have to play very good to beat me. I’m not trying to be cocky, but you have to have confidence to win this thing. And I’m very confident right now. I’m definitely here to win it.”

In other matches in the first two session today, Shane Van Boening advanced with a comeback win over Russia’s Konstantin Stepanov. Van Boening rallied from a 6-2 deficit and took control of the match late and won 11-8. Van Boening now faces Taiwan’s Chang Jung Lin, who easily beat the Philippines Joven Alba 11-5.

The Philippines Lee Van Corteza had no problems with fellow Filipino Oliver Medenilla, 11-5. Corteza now faces a marquee matchup with another Filipino, Carlo Biado, who Read more ...