New Talents, Old Hands Shine at World 9-Ball Championships

Day 1 in Doha Produces Surprising Upsets ad Solid Outings from the Game’s Best

By Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)- With 128 of the world’s best pool players on hand contesting the 2012 World 9-ball Championship, and all playing a slew of matches in their groups and trying, over the next few days, to whittle the field down to 64, it’s nearly impossible to predict who exactly will emerge as the new king of 9-ball.

But as day one here in blazing hot Doha, Qatar has come to a close, certain important trends have already revealed themselves. Perhaps most important among them is the fact that the talent level throughout the world of pool has risen dramatically in the last few years.

We all know that the Philippines, Taiwan, England and many European countries produce serious pool talent. But what about not so known hotbeds of pool such as Iran, Lebanon, Finland, Albania, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, New Zealand, UAE and right here in Qatar?

The first 48 matches held Saturday inside the Al Sadd Sports Club have proven one thing and that is that the sport of 9-ball has literally gone viral, with solid players emerging from the most unlikely of places. Which means known players cannot take any match for granted. And that, of course, brings to us another trend we will witness this week in Doha; fans should prepare themselves for lots of upsets.

WPA Day 1 arena New Talents, Old Hands Shine at World 9 Ball Championships

With 128 of the world’s best pool players on hand contesting the 2012 World 9-ball Championship, and all playing a slew of matches in their groups and trying, over the next few days, to whittle the field down to 64, it’s nearly impossible to predict who exactly will emerge as the new king of 9-ball.

The first surprising result of the day came in the very first group out of the gates, when Kuwait’s Badr Al Awadi defeated former World 10-Ball champion Huidji See of the Netherlands, 9-7. It should be noted that Kuwait seems to be one of the big beneficiaries of the presence of big time pool tournaments being played year after year in the Middle East. Many of the Kuwaiti players are very competitive out on the table and seem to be gaining confidence with each passing year.

Also during the first session another upset caused waves around the arena, this one coming from Down Under. 24 year old Matthew Edwards from New Zealand knew his odds against American great Shane Van Boening were long. And at 5-1 down in the race to 9, alternate break match things were looking bleak indeed for the young Kiwi. But a massive fight back coupled with plenty of heart brought Edwards back into the match. He ended beating Van Boening 9-7 for the biggest win of his career.

Afterward, as many of the players do, Edwards went straight to his Facebook page to tell the world about his accomplishment. His comments are printed as is because, well, they speak volumes about how fascinating the sport of 9-ball at the professional level can be.

Edwards wrote: “I came into the match feeling very excited and a little out of depth… After our 5min warm up I was shocked to find out how tight the pockets were and how different the cushions reacted!!! What a confidence blower the warm up was icon sad New Talents, Old Hands Shine at World 9 Ball Championships ! It was clear that Shane was more than comfortable on the American made Diamond pool table! Shane jumped out to a 5-1 lead without me doing too much wrong… I then kept telling myself I would stick to my initial game plan and never give up , try my best and fight to the end! At 5-1 I remember only seeing the ball in front of me and focusing on the sinking the ball! As weird as it sounds I was so nervous I was afraid to miss which drove me to focus harder and harder… I knew I didn’t know the cushions well enough so I would play basic position even if it meant playing a longer tougher pot on relying on my potting skills! I ended up winning 9-7!! I was very happy to beat such a great player and happy with myself that I didn’t give up and fought right to the finish line !!! I was playing on all heart despite the odds! I kept the belief in myself no matter what!!”

Folks, if you can’t get excited about the excitement of Matthew Edwards then it’s time to turn to following competitive hot dog eating to get your thrills.

As the day wore on, a few more surprising results kept coming in. Aki Heiskanen, a fresh face Read more ...