Four Players Left at World 9-Ball Championship

ORCULLO, ALCANO, GRAY AND AKAKARIYAMA REACH THE SEMI-FINALS OF THE WORLD 9-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER LEGENDARY DAY IN POOL HISTORY

Story and Photo by Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)–After what has to be one of the most memorable and exciting days in the history of championship pool, the Philippines Dennis Orcullo and Ronnie Alcano, England’s Mark Gray, and Japan’s Yukio Akakariyama all made it into the semi-finals of the World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar.

One semi-final will be an all-Filipino affair between former World 9-ball Champion Alcano, and the world’s current number one ranked player, Orcullo. The other semi-final will feature Gray vs. Akakarayima. Both race to 11, alternate break matches will begin at 3pm local time Friday, July 1(GMT +3). The race to 13 alternate break final will begin later at 7pm.

It would be hard to imagine that the last three matches of this year’s World 9-ball Championship could produce any more drama than has already occurred but the way things went Thursday evening, anything must be possible. Two of the race to 11 matches went to a sudden death decider. Another one went to the 20th rack. World class players were reduced to rubble under the tortuous pressure; normally gimme-type pots became impossible makes; the second you figured you knew what was about to happen, something unheard of occurred.

dennis orcollo 9ball champ Four Players Left at World 9 Ball Championship

Dennis Orcullo is one of the final four players vying for the 2011 World 9-Ball title.

The day began at the Al Sadd Sports Club in Doha at 10am with 32 players remaining. By the time the quarter finals rolled around in the evening session, there had already been enough nail biting drama to last years. What happened in the quarter finals produced enough heart stopping moments to last a lifetime.

Actually there was one contest out of the four that produced almost no drama. Going in, the matchup between Orcullo and England’s Daryl Peach promised fireworks as both players were playing superb pool. But once the contest got underway, it quickly became apparent that Orcullo is in another class this year.

Orcullo raced out to a 5-0 lead and from there it was all but over. Orcullo had figured out the diamond and was making two and three balls on every breakout, and leaving himself an open shot on the 1 ball. On the rare occasion that he missed, he would leave himself safe. Peach simply had no answer and he got routed by the man playing the best pool in the tournament, 11-2.

“He played brilliant,” Peach conceded afterwards. “And Dennis doesn’t get rattled by the Filipino fans cheering him on like some of the other Filipinos. It actually does him good.”

Orcullo, the current World 8-ball champion, is seriously ready to cash in on Friday and someone is going to have to play their all time best to beat him.

“I’m hungry to win this tournament,” Orcullo said after waylaying Peach. “I have a lot of experience and I know how to focus. I always want to play good in any tournament but this one is big.”

It was just about when Orcullo went off to relax that the other matches in the Al Sadd began to sizzle. On the far table Gray had jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the USA’s Shane Van Boening. The American had just come off an all time classic 11-10 thriller against England’s Darren Appleton and looked a bit flat. But then Van Boening stormed back to take a 5-4 lead. Gray struck back and, under pressure, played phenomenal pool to move up 8-5. Gray continued to play super smooth and pushed the score to 10 – 6. Then Van Boening kicked it into another gear.

After Gray fouled, Van Boening nailed a combination for the rack. The American broke and ran the next rack to make it 10-9. Gray had the break in the 20th frame but failed to get three balls past the head string. Van Boening, who seemed to have stolen the momentum, had the clear path to a tie and got down with the bridge for a fairly elementary cut on the 9-ball. To his horror, however, he missed the shot.

The two fought and agonized over that 9 ball for over 15 minutes until an errant safe by Van Boening gave Gray an open shot, which he potted for the win.

“I didn’t expect to be in the semi-finals,” Gray said afterward, as a devastated Van Boening slumped in his match chair for 30 minutes. “But I’m thinking I can win it. I usually play good on the big stage. And my confidence is really high right now. Who knows?”

At just about the same time that Gray and Van Boening had nearly gon Read more ...