Greece’s Nikos Ekonomopoulus plays perfect pool to book his place with 31 others in the knockout rounds at the World 9-ball Championship.
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
Photos Courtesy of Bo Bader
(Doha, Qatar)–Misery and joy danced a sultry tango today at the Al Arabi Sports Club in Doha on Day 2 of the 2016 WPA World 9-ball Championship, as 32 players headed for the exits, while another 32 players booked their place in the final 64 knockout stage.
As on Day 1, all 128 players saw action, but unlike the opening rounds, much more was at stake. All 32 losers-side matches in the group stage were do-or-die. All 32 winners-side matches offered the victor a massive sigh of relief, and a day off as they await the start of the single elimination knockout stage which begins on Tuesday.
For the 64 players remaining in this year’s World 9-ball Championship, that means Monday is the dreaded Judgement Day, when every roll of the ball could spell the difference between a career defining run at glory, or a career sullying walk into the lonely Qatari desert, head in hand, never wanting to show your face in public again. Yes, pool at this level can deliver the ultimate prize and the ultimate shame, and all at the same time. It’s why fans around the world love world championship 9-ball.
The day started early at 10am inside the icy cold Al Arabi Sports Club with the losers side matches. A second loss meant an instant out, while a win meant one more chance at qualifying. You could sense the tension straight away as nobody, especially the top players, wanted to go 2 and out in a world championship.
Easily the biggest shock of the tournament so far came when former World 9-ball Champion and Hall of Famer Mika Immonen quickly got the big boot. Surprisingly the always ready for prime time Finn couldn’t get himself into the thick of the action this year. Today he fell behind early to Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski and never contended, getting blown out, 9-4.
Day 1 had been a terrible day for the USA, but Shaun Wilke, Skylar Woodward and Shane Van Boening kept hope alive for the American side with impressive wins. Van Boening in particular looked the goods as he broke magnificently in his 9-2 drubbing of Argentina’s Ariel Castro. Fans will recall it was Van Boening’s sensational break shot last year that saw him storm into the finals.
2007 World 9-ball Championship Daryl Peach bounced back from a big collapse on day 1 and played perfect in a 9-5 win over Singapore’s Alyosius Yapp, who had made a run to the quarterfinals last year. Interestingly Peach will play a Judgement Day match against the Philippines Roberto Gomez, the very man he beat in Manila in 2007 to win the world title.
The winners side matches in the afternoon presented some brilliant face offs that would be worthy of a semis and even a finals any day of the week. Defending Champion Ko Pin Yi once again looked completely impervious as he took down Austria’s Mario He, 9-5.
China’s Zhou Long and Canada’s John Morra squared off in a battle of young rising stars. Morra has been one of pool’s rising bright lights in the last two years and even made it to the quarterfinals last year in Doha with a sensational run. But Zhou made a case for his superb skills today, playing what could be the match of the tournament so far, as he beat the Canadian handily, 9-2.
Perhaps the biggest matchup on the winners’ side took place between Greece’s Nikos Ekonomopoulus and Great Britain’s Jayson Shaw. Ekonomopoulus has been one of Europe’s best players over the last three years. Shaw recently won two straight events in Europe and currently leads the points race for the European Mosconi Cup squad.
Today, however, belonged to the Greek as he played absolutely perfect pool and beat the determined Scotsman, 9-5. Afterward, Ekonomopoulus attributed his stellar play to the fact that he has recently put aside his usual high life living and taken up a training regime.
“I played a perfect set,” the friendly Greek said. “The last two months I made a good workout program for myself. I go to the gym every day, I practice pool for two hours, and I eat good. So I feel better. It’s the first time in my life I have made a program like that so I feel really comfortable at the table.”
Fans and future opponents should pay attention as Ekonomopolous new focus on fitness is clearly paying off. He’s reached the final in the last Euro Tour event, made two finals in other recent open European tournaments, and won an event in Cyprus. And now he’s in the Final 64 in Doha.
Also deserving a good look are the Russians, as veterans Konstantin Stepanov and Ruslan Chinakov barged into the Final 64 undefeated. It should be noted that both Stepanov and Chinakov have spent the last year under the tutelage of coach Johan Ruysink, the Dutch pool coaching guru who led the European Mosconi Cup team to victory seven times.
Several big names failed to qualify today as 2012 World 9-ball Champion Darren Appleton and the Philippines Dennis Orcollo both went down to defeat. Appleton couldn’t fend off the spirited play of Taiwan’s tiny Chu Hong Ming—nicknamed “Peter Pan”—losing 9-7. Orcollo faced fellow Filipino in veteran Ramil Gallego. Orcollo couldn’t get a groove and got swept aside, 9-4. Both players will be back for another go on Judgement Day.
Former world champion Wu Jiaqing(formerly Wu Chia Ching) once again looked superb and moved on. Already seven Chinese players, including Liu Haitao and Li Hewen, have made it through to the final 64.
Play in the final day of the group stages begins tomorrow at 10am(GMT +3).
**The 2015 WPA World 9-ball Championship takes place at the Al Arabi Sports Club Sports Club in Doha, Qatar from July 30-August 4, 2016. The winner of the 2015 World 9-ball Championship will receive $40,000. The runner up will receive $20,000. The total prize fund is $200,000.
The players will be competing on Wiraka DYNASTY Tables with Simonis 860 Cloth, Electric Blue Color and using Aramith Tournament Pro cup TV Pool Balls featuring the new Duramith Technology.
The 2016 World 9-ball Championship is being hosted by The Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation(QBSF), and is sanctioned by the The World Pool Billiard Association, the governing body of the sport of pool.
The WPA will be on hand in Doha throughout this year’s World 9-ball Championship providing up to the minute information, live scoring, photographs and in depth articles with insights and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner.
Fans can interact with us through the WPA’s official Facebook Page for the event at this link;https://www.facebook.com/
The WPA is also on Twitter; @poolwpa
DAY 2 RESULTS, GROUP STAGE, LOSERS SIDE
Winners get one more chance
Losers are out of the tournament
Mazen Berjuai (LEB) 9 – 3 Mohamed C. Elraousti (ALG)
Waleed Majid (QAT) 9 – 7 Shahbaz Adil Khan (IND)
Artem Koshovoj (UKR) 9 – 8 Aoki Ryoji (JPN)
Mohammad Al Kashawi (KUW) 9 – 5 Yang Ching Shun (TPE)
Imran Majid (GBR)9 -2 Abdullah Mohd Karmastaji (UAE)
Christian Goetmann (GER) 9 – 6 Ali Abdulhadi Almeri (QAT)
Joshua Filler (GER) 9 – 0 Abder Rehman Mebarki (ALG)
Ahmed Mohammad Salah (JOR) 9 – 6 Himanshu Jain (IND)
Winners side matches
Winners advance to the Final 64, Losers get one more chance
Chu Hong Ming (TPE) 9 – 7 Darren Appleton (GBR)
Ruslan Chinakov (RUS) 9 – 4 MD Almin (BAN)
Karl Boyes (GBR) 9 – 3Hamzaa M Saeed Ali (ERI)
Toh Lian Han (SIN) 9 – 5 Jeffrey De Luna (PHL)
Chu Bing Jie (CHN) 9- 1 Ruben Bautista (MEX)
Hsieh Chia Chen (TPE) 9 – 5 Ali Maghsoud (IRN)
Li Hewen (CHN) 9 – 4 Francisco Olita Felicilda (QAT-PHL)
Li Wen Lo (TPE) 9 – 5 Yukio Akagariyama (JPN)
Lee Vann Corteza (PHL) 9 – 7 Abdulla Al Shemmari (KSA)
Konstantin Stepanov (RUS) 9 – 6 Rogelio Belleca Sotero Jr (PHL)
Dang Jin Hu (CHN) 9 – 3 Bashar Hussaiin (QAT)
Han Hao Xiang (CHN) 9 – 3 Cheng Yu Husan (TPE)