By Ted Lerner
WPS Media Officer
Photos By JP Parmentier
(New York City)–Long time fans of pool already know that England’s Chris Melling is one of the more talented and entertaining players on the pro circuit. Daring, fast, creative and downright clever, when the Englishman is on his game, there is simply no one in pool who is more fun to watch. It’s one reason why he’s been labeled “The Magician.”
And on Thursday night on day 2 of the third leg of the World Pool Series at Steinway Billiards in Queens, New York City, Melling took his on-table tricks to new and rarefied heights that has sent the pool world, especially online, into a tizzy.
Words may fail to aptly describe the stunt that Melling pulled off in front of an audience of over 50,000 viewing on social media giant Unilad, but we’ll give it a go. Melling was playing the great Mika Immonen in a race to 9, do-or-die match to see who would go through to the final 16 of the Ryo Rack Classic Championship. It was rack three with the score tied 1-1, and Melling had the solids but was faced with a difficult table and no obvious answers for an easy clear. Then came three shots that will surely make the rack “must see TV” for years to come.
The first shot saw the Englishmen gently send the pink 4-ball into the 13 ball, while the cue ball caromed across table and back into the still moving 13-ball, which then nudged the still-moving 4-ball into the corner pocket. While this unusually creative shot drew applause from the crowd, Melling was now hooked behind the 13. No problem, though. Without even blinking, Melling then jacked up his playing cue and swerved the cue ball on a full table arc and incredibly potted the two ball at the other end of the table.
Several easy shots later Melling ran into a wall as his last ball, the 1-ball, was blocked from both corner pockets. After fussing for two minutes, Melling called the 1-ball in the very corner that was blocked. What’s this? The crowd seemed to sense something special was about to happen and indeed it did. Melling sent the 1-ball on a four rail journey around the table, through all of Immonen’s stripes, barely past the 8-ball and into the tight 4 inch corner pocket. With the cue ball in position and with the crowd going wild, the Englishman tapped in the 8-ball to win the rack.
(Watch the video HERE. Rack 3 starts at 9:30)
It was clear that Melling was in that rarefied zone and, indeed, he went on to route Immonen 9-3 and move into the final 16 single elimination knockout stage which begins Friday.
“That was the greatest clearance of my career,” Melling said afterward. “On the 1-ball a lot of people might say that was lucky, but 8-ball is call shot. It’s going to take something for somebody to beat that shot.”
Indeed if Melling continues this standard of play he’s going to be a big favorite as the RYO Rack Classic heads to a conclusion over the next two days. Of course he will certainly have plenty of top notch competition, as the stacked field of 64 has been now been cut down to just 16 players. The tournament now moves to single elimination and best of three sets, with each set a race to 6 games.
One of the other favorites will be Melling’s first opponent on Friday, 18 year old Albanian Klenti Kaci, who won the last leg of the World Pool Series in April, the Aramith Masters. Kaci came back to New York this summer clearly in top notch playing form as he hasn’t even been touched in the tournament so far, winning all three of matches to advance. On Thursday Kaci took down England’s Imran Majid 11-6 to reach the final 16.
Majid later came off the losers side with a handy 9-6 win over talented Kuwaiti Ahmed Aldulaimi to make the final 16. England will be well represented on Friday. Karl Boyes, the 2010 World 8-ball champion, has suddenly rediscovered his form. Boyes took down fellow Brit Mark Gray, 11-5 to advance. Gray then rebounded with a solid 9-5 win over the Philippines Warren Kiamco to make the last 16. World Pool Series founder and multi-world champion Darren Appleton advanced earlier in the day with a n 11-6 win over Immonen.
Another player who is quietly crushing anyone put in front of him is Austria’s Mario He, who recently won the World Cup of Pool with his partner Albin Ouschan. He won his third straight match on Thursday, easily defeating Irish great, Karen Corr, 11-4. The Austrian will face local New York favorite Tony Robles. Robles came off the losers side of the bracket with a big win over Estonia’s Dennis Grabe, 9-6.
The USA’s Skylar Woodward, clearly still buzzing from his runner up finish at the World Cup of Pool in London in June with Shane Van Boening, has yet to taste defeat. The same goes for American Shawn Wilkie, who is gearing up for the World Games next week in Poland.
Polish veteran Radislaw Babica has looked the goods so far in New York. After thrashing American Billy Thorpe 11-4 on Wednesday, Babica easily beat Canada’s Jason Klatt 11-5 to advance to the final 16. Klatt later qualified for the final 16 with a 9-4 win over April Larson. But while the Canadian ended Larson’s run in the event, the 17 year old school girl had clearly won the hearts of everyone at Steinway.
With her prodigious talent and infectious personality, Larson has been garnering plenty of attention in the last few years and especially in 2017. She recently reached the semi-finals in the WPBA Masters event and last week she represented the USA in the Atlantic Cup challenge in Austria. In New York, the Minnesota native lost her first match to American Corey Duel. She then proceeded to win two straight 9-8 matches Thursday, each one via a thrilling shootout. In the second match against Korea’s Lee Kang, Larson showed incredible bottle and nerve in the shootout as she potted one long 8-ball after the next to win the match, as the large crowd watching gave this budding pool superstar a rousing applause.
Play continues Friday in the RYO Rack Classic Championship at Steinway Billiards in New York City beginning at 1pm. The semi-finals and final will be held on Saturday.
The winner of the RYO Rack Classic Championship will take home $10,000.
For the complete draw and live scoring please CLICK HERE.
The third event of the World Pool Series, The RYO Rack Classic, is being held at Steinway Billiards in Astoria, Queens, New York City from July 12-15, 2017. The World Pool Series is sponsored by RYO Rack, Aramith, Molinari, Predator, Unilad, Cheqio, Iwan Simonis, Kamui, Billiards Digest, Cuescore, Ultimate Team Gear, and High Rock Productions.
For more information on the World Pool Series, please visit www.worldpoolseries.com.
The Ryo Rack Classic will be streamed live and free on both the WPS Facebook Page and through the Unilad and Unilad Sport Facebook Page. To watch the free stream, you can visit www.worldpoolseries.com and click the “Watch” button to go our streaming page within the website.