Three Quarter Of A Million People Catch Upstart Greek Damianos Giallourakis Take Down Defending Champion Chinahov On Day 1 Of The Aramith Masters In New York
By Ted Lerner
WPS Media Officer
Photos by JP Parmentier
(New York City)– The early stages of major pool tournaments generally see a few surprises from upstarts taking down big names. But Day 1 of the Aramith Masters, the 2nd leg of the new 8-ball tour the World Pool series(WPS), will surely go down in history for something quite different than a top star getting run out of the building by a no-hoper.
That’s because professional pool surely entered a new era at Steinway Café-Billiards in Queens, New York City today, thanks to the WPS’ new partnership with social media giant Unilad. The UK based Unilad, which specializes in trending content from around the world, boasts nearly 27 million followers on its popular Facebook page. And now they are broadcasting live professional pool to their legions of followers.
The sheer gravity of the possibilities for this long suffering sport were on full display this afternoon at Steinway in the first TV table match between Russian Ruslan Chinahov, who won the first leg of the World Pool Series back in January, and Greek upstart Damianos Giallourakis. As the two young players battled it out in what turned out to be a very entertaining match, the viewer numbers started rolling in and they were simply out of this world. Over three quarters of a million viewers from all corners of the globe tuned in to some or all of the match live on Unilad’s Facebook page. If pool fans can’t get excited about the possibilities of what is a new model for broadcasting pool, it might be time to start watching curling.
For the 30 year old journeyman Gilaourakis, playing on the TV table in front of this massive audience proved to be all the motivation he needed to put in what was the best performance of the day. Chinahov, the defending champion, had just won the European 9-ball championship last week in Portugal and was riding a wave of confidence. But the pesky Greek overcame some early mistakes and stormed back from a 7-5 deficit with some surreal shot making to take the match to a shootout at 8-8, which he won by a score of 4-2. It was Gilaourakis’ second win of the day.
“I beat Ruslan in February in the Euro tour, also 9-8,” Gilaourakis. “I was a little tired at first, but I told myself don’t give up. I came here to win and I know I can win this match. I felt good. I didn’t expect to feel that good because I only slept 5 hours. I’m always excited to play the TV table. It doesn’t stress me out. I get excited. My game is good enough to win this tournament. Of course anything can happen so who knows.”The 30 year old Greek, who hails from Rhodes Island and now lives in Norway where he works as a waiter in an Asian restaurant, embodies the essence of what the WPS is really all about; talented players who are looking for regular earning opportunities and a chance to shine. Gilaourakis has played in ten Euro Tour events and has some solid finishes. He won the smaller Greek Open and the Norwegian Open 9-ball in 2015 and clearly can compete and beat the best.
The top 32 seeds all had byes today, but saw action in the second round and mostly performed to expectation. Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann, Dennis Orcollo, Mika Immonen, Darren Appleton, Chris Melling, Johann Chua, David Alcaide, Johnny Archer, Carlo Biado, Lee Vann Corteza, Karl Boyes, Billy Thorpe, Mark Gray and Jeffrey DeLuna all won handily to stay on the winners side of the bracket.
The USA’s Rodney Morris stumbled in his opening match, losing 9-4 to last minute entry Manny Perez, a young American who is surely a player to watch. Morris later came back on the losers side beating Michael Yednak to stay alive. Hall of Famer and women’s game legend LoreeJon Hasson saw the exits as she fell in her second round match to Puerto Rico’s Jimmy Rivera to suffer her second loss. Jennifer Baretta put in a gutsy effort against Keith West, winning 8-6 to stay alive on the losers side. Corey Duel also stayed alive with a win after losing to Lee Vann Corteza in round 1.
The evening match in the Unilad TV arena saw the Philippines Roberto Gomez take on Japan’s viral sensation Naoyuki Oi. Oi came out in the pre-match interview and performed the Apple and Pen skit that garnered him worldwide fame during the recent World Pool Masters in Gibraltar. But the act wasn’t enough to stop the resurgent Gomez, who waltzed to an impressive 9-3 victory.
Gomez, who ten years ago famously reached the final of the World 9-ball Championship in Manila only to collapse in tears under the heavy pressure with the title in his grasp, says he’s now a changed man.
“A lot of people know me from the World Pool Championship ten years ago in Manila,” Gomez said. “I was very young then and I didn’t know how to handle the pressure. But I’ve learned a lot since then and I am a much better player and can handle the pressure situations. I’m playing really good now so I think I can live up to my nickname, ‘Superman.’
Play resumes Thursday at the Aramith Masters at Steinway Café-Billiards in Queens New York City beginning at 10:30am and continues throughout the day. By the end of the day, the field will be whittled down to the final 16 and all matches will then become single elimination.
*The second event of the World Pool Series, The Aramith Masters, takes place at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens, New York City from April 5-8, 2017. The World Pool Series is sponsored by Aramith, Molinari, Predator, Cheqio, RYO Rack, Iwan Simonis, Kamui, Billiards Digest, Cuescore, Ultimate Team Gear, and High Rock Productions.