Gang of Four go for Glory

Appleton, Ohi, Lee and Souquet Reach the Semifinals at the 2012 World 9-Ball Championship in Doha

By Ted Lerner

(Doha, Qatar)- After a brutally taxing day of championship pool at the highest levels, England’s Darren Appleton, Japan’s Nayoki Ohi, Germany’s Ralf Souquet and China’s Lee He Wen all made it into the semi-finals of the 2012 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar.

Both semi-finals carry the classic story line of east vs. west. In one semi-final, Appleton will face off with Ohi. In the other semi-final, Souquet will be take on Li.

The semi-finals will be a race to 11, alternate break and will be played concurrently at the Al Sadd Sports Club in Doha, beginning at 2pm local time(GMT +3). The final will be a race to 13, alternate break and will begin at 6pm.

The Al Sadd heaved with drama and emotion throughout the long day of play today as the field was cut from 32 players down to four. It was a marathon of hard core pool that when combined with the gravity of the circumstances, seemed to tax each and every player to the core. At times the winners of matches came down to a matter of who had the stamina and will power to withstand the constant pressure. Nobody who was there would argue that the last four men standing earned their spots the hard way and are battle hardened and ready for trench warfare.

w9 4 players Gang of Four go for Glory

After a brutally taxing day of championship pool at the highest levels, England’s Darren Appleton, Japan’s Nayoki Ohi, Germany’s Ralf Souquet and China’s Lee He Wen all made it into the semi-finals of the 2012 World 9-ball Championship in Doha, Qatar.

Perhaps the most impressive player in the field today, and also the one who seemed to best be able to let the pressure effortlessly slide off him was Japan’s Ohi. The 29 year old from Osaka is known amongst fellow players as an affable free spirit and he played like it throughout the day. Ohi came out and completely steamrolled Taiwan’s Chang Jung Lin in the round of 32, 11-3. He then met up with Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann in the round of 16 where he came back from an early deficit and glided to the finish line for a well earned 11-9 victory.

A similar scenario happened in Ohi’s quarterfinal matchup against England’s Karl Boyes. Boyes had been developing a head of steam as he had just beaten Taiwan’s Fong Pang Chao 11-8, and then barely squeaked by young German talent Dominique Jentsch, 11-10.

But while the match was close throughout, Ohi seemed impervious to any of Boyes’ pressure and fought off the Englishman the whole way. Ohi never trailed and advanced with a well earned 11-9 victory.

China’s Lee is perhaps the most unassuming top tier player in the world today. With his bespectacled, urchin-like appearance, he could easily be mistaken for the class nerd. But any attempt to prejudge Li based on looks is done at one’s severe peril. This guy can flat out play.

Lee first took down Canada’s John Morra, 11-8. He then met up with one of the tournament’s surprises, Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen. The Kuwaiti’s have made serious advances in pool and the 19 year old Al Shaheen is clearly the face of the new and hungry generation.

Al Shaheen played a fantastic match and had the score even after ten racks. But like all great players, once Lee got the lead, he managed to hold on to it by hook or by crook.
Al Shaheen fought furiously and had the backing of the boisterous crowd. But despite some late errors, the Chinese held on for a tight 11-9 win.

Lee then met up with the Philippines Antonio Gabica in the quarterfinal. Amazingly, Gabica, who is a coach for the Qatar national team, was the last Filipino left in a field that started with 17 on day 1. Four Pinoys had already been shown the exits by the time Gabica met Li; Dennis Orcullo, Efren Reyes, Lee Van Corteza, and Jundel Mazon.

Gabica had just come off a thrille Read more ...