Defending champions China are safely through to the second round of the BetVictor World Cup of Pool after a commanding performance over Sweden, in a session which also saw Albania beat Russia and Netherlands see off South Africa at the Morningside Arena, Leicester, live on Sky Sports, DAZN and networks around the world.
The opening session of the $250,000, 32-team event saw China’s Wu Jaiqing and Liu Haitao fire a warning shot to the rest of the field with a resounding 7-1 win as they look to become the first team to successfully defend a World Cup title.
They were gifted the first rack when Tomas Larsson missed a simple 6 and took the subsequent three racks for a 4-0 lead. Sweden, whose team also included European Mosconi Cup captain Marcus Chamat, got one on the board after Wu failed to cut a 4 up table but lost position on the 7 in the following rack. After a brief safety battle, US Open finalist Wu was left an open shot and China completed the set for a 5-1 advantage.
In winning the World Cup last summer, it was Wu who led the attack for China, with Liu perhaps not at his best. It was noticeable in this match that Liu was already performing better than he had 12 months ago, an ominous sign for the 31 teams hoping to rip the title from China’s grasp.
The final two racks required for victory came without Sweden returning to the table, and the reigning champions progressed through to round two with a 7-1 victory.
The second match saw some of Europe’s best young pool talents take to the table. For Albania Eklent Kaci was joined by Besar Spahiu, while Russia featured the fearsome pairing of Fedor Gorst and Ruslan Chinakhov.
The first six racks were shared but from 3-3 Albania opened up a two-rack advantage. They were then given ball in hand when Chinakhov missed the 5 ball, which was sat invitingly in the jaws of the corner pocket. Kaci was struggling with his cueing and couldn’t take immediate advantage, however on their next visit Albania did clear the table to move to the hill before securing their progression to round two with a 7-3 victory.
“We are very happy to progress to round two,” said Spahiu, who works as a full-time police officer. “We enjoyed the match, but we will hope to play better in the next round. The police force is good to me – if we keep winning they will let me take more time off, so let’s hope we keep winning.”
The session’s final match saw Netherlands up against South African twins Vincent and Richard Halliday. The Dutch pair of Niels Feijen and Marc Bijsterbosch raced to a 3-0 lead but the latter scratched with just three balls remaining, allowing their opponents to clear.
The Dutch moved 6-1 ahead before South Africa got another rack on the board, but it took just one more rack for the Netherlands to complete the victory and join China and Albania in round two. All three will find out their next opponents during this evening’s session, which begins at 7pm local time.
The BetVictor World Cup of Pool is sponsored by Rasson Billiards, who supply the Official Table; the cloth is supplied by Iwan Simonis and the Official Balls are Super Aramith by Saluc. Predator are the Official Cue of the event and Kamui the Official Chalk and Tip.