Story and Photos By Ted Lerner
WPA Media Officer
(Doha, Qatar)– Yesterday in Doha, Joshua Filler and his wife, Pia, celebrated their one year wedding anniversary. Today, Filler presented his bride and biggest fan the best gift he’ll probably ever give her; a world title.
Playing in his typical fast and loose fashion, the 21 year old German battled his way to a hard fought 13-10 win over the Philippines Carlo Biado to win his very first WPA World 9-ball Championship in front of several hundred fans at the Al Arabi Sports Club in Doha.
The match was as entertaining a finals scrap as fans have witnessed in many years, with both players putting in superb performances under the searing pressure. Biado was trying to become the first man since Earl Strickland 27 years ago to win back to back world 9-ball titles. The players exchanged the lead several times and the outcome was in doubt until the last quarter of the match, when Filler did what all champions do: he turned on the after burners to claim pool’s most coveted crown.
With the victory Filler’s future is about as bright as it could possibly get. He had already won the brutally tough China Open in 201, and followed that up later that same year with a Mosconi Cup MVP where he even potted the very last ball to seal Europe’s victory. He possesses surreal talent and plays with a confidence that is palpable to even casual fans. The phrase, ‘Sky’s the limit,’ is hardly a cliché when talking about Filler.
The victory was surely extra special for the German considering that he was nearly left for dead in his semi-final match against Greece’s Alexander Kazakis earlier in the day. In that match, Filler sprinted out of the gates and quickly held a 4-1 lead. Kazakis, though, had shown his resilience all week in Doha, and clawed his way back and soon took the lead at 6-4.
From there Kazakis held off Filler at every turn, and with a 10-8 lead, the hard nosed Greek looked set for his first ever final of the world championship. But one mistake by Kazakis gave Filler a rack, and then the German broke and ran to send the semi-final to a nail biting decider.
In the last frame Filler broke but had to play safe, which led to Kazakis fouling and giving the German ball in hand. Filler took full advantage and ran the table to enter the final.
Biado started the day with a showdown against the USA’s Shane Van Boening. The American had been playing marvelous pool all week in Doha, and fans in person and online made him the betting favorite to take his first world title. The Filipino, however, put in a masterclass. He literally mastered the break shot, always getting a ball or two down and leaving a shot on the one ball. From there, he showed pure mastery of the cue ball, and simply didn’t miss. The first half of the match was close, but Van Boening didn’t stand a chance as Biado cruised to an 11-6 win.
With that amazing performance Biado looked the favorite to join Strickland in the repeat club. It was Filler, though, who came out quick, taking a 3-0 lead on several bad position plays by the Filipino.
Just as quickly, though, Biado struck back tying the match at 3-3 with a break and run and two difficult clears. Filler then went back up by one, but the Filipino countered and the score was tied at 4-4.
Biado seemed to finally be focused and settled, and took his first lead of the match in the next set after a dry break from the German. With a break and run in the next frame Biado went up 6-4. Filler got one back, but Biado countered again to make it 7-5, and the pro Filipino crowd was sure they were about to see their man claim the title again.
Filler, though, was just getting started. After a break and run, Biado scratched, and in the blink of an eye the match was tied at 7. Filler quickly broke and ran another one to reclaim the lead, then cleared the colors in the next frame after Biado snookered himself, then fouled. Yet another break and run by the German made it a 10-7 lead, and this seemed to rattle the Filipino. Indeed in the next frame Biado left himself another bad position, played a poor safe, and Filler cleaned up to move within two of the title.
Biado, however, wasn’t going to relinquish his crown without a fightback. With the tension building in the arena, the Filipino cleared off a dry break, then broke and ran the next, and cleaned up after a Filler miss in the next frame. With the score 11-10 in favor of the German, fans knew they were witnessing a classic.
Biado will probably remember the next rack for the rest of his life. He played a brilliant safe that caused Filler to foul. With ball in hand the match would surely be tied in a matter of moments. Inexplicably, though, Biado scratched on the very first shot with ball in hand. In less than a minute, Filler was on the hill.
The German broke but had to play safe. After several safety exchanges, Biado left the one peaking out which Filler potted. From there it was connect the dots pool. Filler quickly cleared the balls down to the 9-ball. With the gravity of the situation now apparent, he went back to his chair and steadied himself, then stepped up and knocked in the last 9-ball to become World 9-ball Champion.
Afterwards, an overwhelmed Filler could hardly believe what he had just accomplished. He thanked Biado, then tried to find the words and reasons he was now the best in the world.
“Hats off to Carlo Biado for getting back into the final,” Filler said. “That’s an amazing accomplishment and he could have very easily been the winner. For me it’s a dream come true and I am still overwhelmed with the situation, I’m the number one in the world, I can’t believe that.
“The first time I really knew I could win the world championship was when I won the China Open in 2017. But now I’ve practiced even more, especially when I played in the Mosconi Cup last year and it gave me more power because I wanted to come back to the team. I didn’t make it but the hard work paid off.
“I was a bit worried when he came back and went up by two racks. I just had to wait for his mistakes and then I knew I’d have to play perfect and that’s what happened. I played perfect pool the second half of the match. It’s unbelievable and it makes me so happy to win like that.
“I just want to take a few days off and relax and then I’m going to work even harder and win every title I can get. The expectations now are higher, so I have to set a bigger goal and work harder.”
As expected Biado was nothing but class in defeat. He could look back on an amazing 12 months where he won his first title and very nearly won another one.
“I played well but the table was a bit bouncy and I was getting frustrated,” Biado said. “I was thinking too much about the table and it kind of affected me. But overall I’m ok with how I played. I only made two or three mistakes and my play was very good. He played really well and he deserves it. I’m happy for Joshua, I congratulate him.
“For me, I was in the final and I wasn’t expecting this so I’m happy. Overall I had a great tournament. And to be in the final after winning last year, well I can’t ask for much more than that. I did well and now I’m heading home to see my family and friends for Christmas.”
Filler had one more person he wanted to thank and give credit to; his wife, Pia. The pair now have the world in their hands, and it was time to celebrate.
“I want to thank my wife,” Filler said. “Without her I wouldn’t be the new world champion. She supported me the whole week, gave me a lot of power and confidence. Yesterday was our first year anniversary. I think it was a good present.”
For winning the 2018 World 9-ball Championship Filler receives $40,000, while Biado took home $20,000. The total prize fund was $200,000.
*The 2018 WPA World 9-ball Championship took place at the Al Arabi Sports Club Sports Club in Doha, Qatar from December 10-20, 2018. The event was hosted by The Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation(QBSF), and was sanctioned by The World Pool Billiard Association, the governing body of the sport of pool.
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The players will compete 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.
Media coverage of the 2018 World 9-ball Championship was supported by the American Poolplayers Association(APA). Join the world’s largest pool league today. Please visit join.poolplayers.com
Joshua Filler (GER) 11-10 Alexander Kazakis (GRE)
Carlo Biado (PHL) 11-6 Shane Van Boening (USA)
Joshua Filler (GER) 13 – 10 Carlo Biado (PHL)