Desert Storm Sweeps in the Final 64

A Record Four Kuwaitis Make the Cut as the 2012 World 9-Ball Championship Heads in the Knockout Stage

By Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)- Judgment Day at the 2012 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar lived up to expectations as the pool gods passed down plenty of surprising verdicts and left us with a final 64 that promises an all-time classic shootout for pool’s biggest prize.

Pool fans around the globe can now look forward to three solid days of one intriguing match after the next, as the road to the world title picks up a massive head of steam. All the matches now become a race to 11, alternate break. The semi-finals and final will take place on June 29th, with the final being a race to 13.

Not surprisingly, the Philippines brings the largest contingent into the single elimination stage, with a power house lineup of 13 players out of their 17 original entries having qualified. Taiwan has put in its usual impressive performance with seven of its players having gone through. Japan has looked extremely strong so far and six players in the final 64 are a testament to a high grade effort on the table for the Japanese.

Two surprising developments so far point to a massive shift in the global pool landscape. The USA will have no representation in the final 64 of the World 9-ball Championship, while the tiny country of Kuwait will have four players competing for glory.

Indeed the pool world seemed to be turned upside down from the opening rack inside the cool confines of the Al Sadd Sports Club on Tuesday as a handful of big names were given their walking papers straight away.

team kuwait Desert Storm Sweeps in the Final 64

Judgment Day at the 2012 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar lived up to expectations as the pool gods passed down plenty of surprising verdicts and left us with a final 64 that promises an all-time classic shootout for pool’s biggest prize.

England’s Chris Melling was surely on nearly everyone’s list as one of a handful of guys you’d expect to see go deep into this tournament. But after losing to the Philippines underrated Jundel Mazon on Day 1, Melling had to face another rising prospect in Nikolaos Malaj from Albania in a make or break match.

Unfortunately for Melling the 25 year old Malaj, who actually resides in Athens, Greece, is where the Brit was just a few short years ago; hungry for success and with plenty of game to make his dreams come true. Malaj was down 5-2 but pounced on one mistake by Melling, then confidently marched to the finish line with a strong 9-6 victory.

“I know all these guys and they’re all good,” Malaj said after his impressive win. “But I’m not scared of anyone. I know I can beat all of them. Why not? It’s just one match.”

The USA’s Shane Van Boening said earlier in the day that winning the World 9-ball Championship would be his highest accomplishment in pool. But Van Boening’s dream of 9-ball supremacy will have to wait yet another year as he was steamrolled by the Philippines’ Mazon. The 36 year old Mazon, who resides in Cavite outside of Manila, has quietly worked his way into being a top tier player in the Philippines and has the goods to go far in this event.

The bloodbath for some of pool’s top names didn’t stop there. The Netherland’s Niels Feijen looked set to qualify as he led Japan’s Naoyuki Oi 8-5. But Oi stormed back and won the match at the wire, 9-8.

China’s Fu Jian Bo trailed his entire match against Vietnamese newcomer with the rather hip-hop sounding name, Do The Kein. Do never flinched against the more experienced Fu and won handily 9-5.

Finland’s Mika Immonen nearly faced the wrath of the pool gods too as he was taken to the absolute limit by a very tough Iranian player, Ali Pordel. At 8-all and with just four balls left on the table, Immonen pocketed a near impossible half table bank in the corner on the six ball to clinch the match and a spot in the final 64.

“I’m feeling super, super relieved right now,” the two time former world champion said. “I make that six ball, I win. I miss it, I lose.”

When asked what he thought about the volume of new talent emerging at this year’s championship, Immonen wasn’t ready to give up his elite mantle just yet.

“Well, you have the old guard guys and then you have a lot of the new guys. They play Read more ...