Martel Comes Up Big in Montreal
By Michael Wright
The Canadian 9-Ball Tour saw only 12 anxious competitors making their way back to Le Skratch Bar Billiards in Montreal for Sunday’s action. Early play from the one-loss brackets saw Danny Hewitt, one of the pre-event favorites, pitted against Rafael Houde, Ryan Solleveld playing Adam Smith, Norm Pomainville locking horns with Francis Crevier, and former world snooker star Alain Robidoux looking to continue his run against Tyler Edey.
Hewitt and Houde exchanged all the early racks before Hewitt hit a gear that could not be matched by his opponent to come home a 9-5 winner. Edey looked in fantastic form as he took early control of his match against Robidoux. The French Canadian hit back with a massive comeback and a 9-6 win after trailing 0-5 at one stage. Smith seized the initiative from the outset against Solleveld and, similar to the Edey/Robidoux match, watched his opponent dig in and produce a fightback. Smith, however, held his nerve, and the early lead prevailed winning this match 9-6. Canadian 8-ball champion Francis Crevier came into his match against Pomainville as the prohibitive favorite. American Pomainville remained in complete focus and, belying the odds, won the match by comfortable score of 9-5. The day started with Pomainville an 80-1 long shot to win the tournament, and many fans and punters in attendance were kicking themselves for not taking advantage of this betting offer by Stan James the Sports Bookmakers.
Winners’-side matches all presented high-powered clashes with Alain Martel facing off against Stan Tourangeau and lanky Erik Hjorleifson matching wits with Edwin Montal. Martel came out of the gate quickly enjoying a 5-1 advantage over Tourangeau. Martel was looking very comfortable on tables that he was very familiar with, and this did not bode well for Tourangeau. Unfortunately for Tourangeau things did not get any better, as Martel was an unstoppable force, winning the match 9-2. The second seed, Montal assumed control of his match against Hjorleifson, taking the four of the first five racks to lead 4-1. Keeping the pressure on Hjorleifson was the key in Montal’s mind, and his attacking style showed he was determined to stamp his authority on this match. Comfortably leading 7-2 and with the break to come for Montal, it was a long road back for Hjorleifson. He didn’t have to suffer much longer, as minutes later Montal was home and dry with a lopsided 9-2 victory.
One-loss bracket matches featured Alain Robidoux versus Danny Hewitt and Adam Smith versus Norm Pomainville. Smith won the first three racks against fellow American Pomainvilleand looked to be breaking at the perfect speed on this match table. Smith then won three of the next four racks to assume a 6-1 lead before Pomainville secured three of the next four racks to trail 4-7. Smith stopped Pomainville’s comeback dead in its tracks, winning the next two racks to secure the win with a 9-4 score. The two Montreal sharpshooters from different cue sport disciplines, Robidoux and Hewitt, knew each others’ reputations well. Misses were at a premium in this match as Robidoux took the early lead at 4-3. The slower pace of this match suited Robidoux perfectly, coming from professional snooker. The two went hand in hand and, exchanging racks with each other, took the score to 7-7. Robidoux took the next and was breaking for the win at 8-7. A tailor-made break provided Robidoux with the winning line, and he assuredly took this opportunity as he ousted Danny Hewitt with a final score of 9-7.
A winner from the B-side matched up with a loser from the A-side in the Smith versus Tourangeau match. As is the case more often than not, the player with the positive momentum prevails, and Smith did nothing to betray this philosophy by jumping out to a 5-0 lead. Tourangeau was in no mood to go down quietly and took the next five racks to square the match at 5-5. Smith hit back winning the next three racks to lead 8-5 and breaking in the next for the win. Smith had the measure of the break in this match and had the 1 ball sitting up to attention every time. The last was no different and a break and run-out gave Smith a 9-5 win and afforded him time to await the winner of Robidoux and Hjorleifson.
Erik Hjorleifson, coming off his loss to Montal, had to wait almost one hour before he faced off against Robidoux. The snooker star was making a fantastic run, and after losing his first round match, he had compiled seven match wins in succession before confronting Hjorleifson. It proved to be a different proposition altogether for Robidoux, as Hjorleifson won four of the first five racks to lead 4-1. He maintained the initiative by moving into a 7-2 lead over Robidoux. This was a tough lead to overhaul, but Robidoux had already won a previous match from well behind so he was well aware of how a 9-ball deficit was vastly different than a snooker deficit. He pulled back to trail 5-7, but Hjorleifson was in no mood to relinquish the early lead and dismissed the valiant effort by Robidoux, eliminating him with a 9-6 final tally.
The battle for the hot seat between lain Martel and Montal was a highly anticipated encounter. These two had shared a room as teammates representing Canada in last year’s World Pool Cup in Holland, so bragging rights were also on the line. Martel was brimming with confidence and was overpowering his opponents with his break and fearless approach. It wasn’t long before he had applied the pressure to Montal by moving into a 5-2 advantage. With two powerhouse players at the table, it is always expected that either one is capable of reeling off racks in quick succession. Montal showed some spirit as he reeled Martel in to trail by only one rack at 5-6. Sensing that he had to stop the threat offered by Montal, he gathered himself and won the next three racks to move into a commanding position at 8-5 clear. A solid break gave Martel the opportunity he wanted, and he was equal to the task as he beat his former World Cup roommate 9-5. Montal would now sit back and wait to see the outcome of the Hjorleifson versus Smith match for his next opponent.
Adam Smith had won eight matches in a row after losing his first, so it was fair to say that he had built up a little momentum as he squared off with Hjorleifson. The early going gave no indication of a winner, as Hjorleifson held the narrow lead at 4-3. Smith was not showing the positive signs or the break that had helped him along the way to his match against Hjorleifson, and mistakes were creeping into his game. Hjorleifson was capitalizing on these mistakes and eased into a handy 7-4 lead. Smith had no reply for Hjorlefson in this match, and after ten minutes’ time the tall Hjorleifson has secured a berth against Montal with a 9-4 win over Smith. The eight-match winning streak finally came to an end at the hands of Hjorleifson, but it showed a lot of heart and fight in Smith’s game.
The B-side final brought together Montal and Hjorleifson in a battle of the second and third seeds, respectively. Montal was hoping for an instant replay of the A-side semifinal in which he dismantled Hjorleifson 9-2. The first eight racks of this match were split, meaning Hjorleifson had already doubled his output from their previous encounter. Both players were exhibiting some edgy play and a number of easy balls had been missed from both camps. Montal, however, managed to keep his nose in front leading 6-5 as both players opted for a short break. The break seemed to re-energize Montal as he swiftly moved into a three-rack lead arriving to the hill at 8-5. The winning post appeared in the next rack, and the transplanted Philippino star would take no more chances as he won the fourteenth rack to take the victory with a 9-5 scoreline.
The final between Martel and Montal was contested over a race to 11 racks. Martel opened his account with a long bank on the 9 ball to take the first rack. He swiftly took the next to lead 2-0. Some canny safety play took Martel further in front at 3-0. The trend continued and Montal was digging himself a hole that would be very difficult to climb out of. The fifth rack finally went to Montal to bring the score to 4-1 in favor of Martel. The Montal fans in attendance were desperately hoping that their man could sustain the high level of play required to match shots with Martel. Their hopes were dashed as Montal won racks five, six, and seven to roll in front 7-1.
The situation had now become desperate for Montal, and his expression around the table showed it. Martel was not about to be sending any sympathy cards, however, as he won rack number nine after a short safety exchange. The lead now was 8-1 to Martel. A great safety shot from Martel when he could easily have attempted a shot at an 8-9 combination took him to 9-1 in front. Unforced errors were coming fast and furious from Montal, and Martel was quick to administer punishment as he won the next to put Montal up against the wall 10-1. A rare mistake from Martel kept the fans in their seats as he scratched on the 8 ball to give Montal a flicker of life. That flicker would soon be extinguished for the likeable Montal, however, as Martel won the last rack he required in the event for a masterful 11-2 victory and the first-place prize of $5,000 along with it. Montal now takes over first place in the overall points race with John Morra failing to show up for the event.