Stars Rise and Fall at Women’s World 9-Ball Championship

Defending Champ Bi,Kelly and Allison Fisher Through to Last 32 While Legend Pan Crashes Out

By Ted Lerner

(Shenyang, China)-With short races to 7 racks, the world’s best pool talent on hand, and the pressure of a world title at stake, pool fans have come to expect plenty of upsets in the opening stages of world championships.

But for Chinese 9-ball fans, Monday produced one of the biggest downers imaginable as China’s wildly popular Pan Xiaoting lost twice on the very first day of the 2012 Women’s World 9-ball Championship and was sent packing from the 64 player field.

Pan’s lightning quick exit took a mere few hours. Trailed by paparazzi and adoring, camera toting fans, the petite and likeable Pan was first up on the TV table inside the swanky Richgate Shopping Center here in Shenyang in northeastern China. Things looked to be going well for the superstar, as she racked up a 6-3 advantage over Indonesia’s Angeline Ticoalu.

But then the 27 year old from Jakarta, playing on the biggest stage of her career, got her game on and soon tied the match at 6-6. In the final rack, Ticoalu played two marvelous safeties that forced Pan into giving up the table, allowing the upstart Indonesian to take the match, and leave local fans in stunned silence.

Ticoalu could barely believe what she had just done but Pan had no time to rue what went wrong. First round losers had to play straight away and this time Pan never had a chance as she went down easily on the upstairs table, losing to Singapore’s Charlene Chai Zeet, 7-4.

kelly fisher ww9ball Stars Rise and Fall at Womens World 9 Ball Championship

Kelly Fisher, along with Allison Fisher and defending champion Bi, are through to the round of 32.

Always trailed by awestruck fans and photographers, Pan, who is known as China’s Queen of 9-ball, revealed afterwards that she has been suffering from terrible neck pain for over a month due to a misaligned spine. The injury and constant visits to the doctor have eaten into her practice time and make competing at a high level difficult. But always the polite competitor, Pan put on a brave face.

“There are many other tournaments to play,” she said, hiding her disappointment.

Chinese fans don’t have to look far for heroes to follow, though, as the field in this year’s Championship is top heavy with Chinese players—33 of the 64 in fact—and many happen to be some of the best in the world.

Chinese fans and media go gaga over pretty and demur winners, thus the boyish and tiny defending champion, Bi Zhu Qing, seems to attract almost no attention. The shopping mall is festooned with hundreds of colorful posters featuring the biggest names in Chinese women’s pool, along with plenty of foreign stars. But Bi(pronounced Bee), clearly doesn’t fit the model for popularity here and is conspicuously missing from the marketing materials.

Bi, though, is a marvelous talent who plays without a care in the world. She looked in great form today as she won both her matches and advanced to the round of 32 knockout stage which begins Tuesday afternoon.

World number 1, 18 year old Chen Siming, who could be China’s most talented player, handily won her first two matches today and also advanced, as did World number 4 Han Yu and world number 5, Fu Xiao Fang. Other Chinese names to look out for in the coming days are Bai Ge, and Han Fang who advanced by sending former US Open Champion Ga Young Kim to the losers side.

There’s a few foreigners on hand here in Shenyang who are clearly aching to upset the proverbial apple cart and none more so than the Fishers, Allison and Kelly. Both are veterans of the Chinese tournament circuit, are surely stars here, and both have come close to winning tournaments China but always fallen short. And last year both Fishers crashed out early in this Championship.

On day one this year, however, things have gone much better for the British duo. Kelly Fisher cruised through to the final 32 with two wins, including a 7-2 thrashing of America’s lone entry in this year’s event, Monica Webb.

Read more ...