THE NEW LOOK 26TH annual Dafabet World Pool Masters got underway at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar with eight matches over the opening day as the event included 24 players for the first time in its history.
There are eight seeded players who will enter the event in the first round while the other 16 competitors competed today in the preliminary round to determine which eight players went through to face the seeds.
The seeded players are:
European Champion: Konrad Juszczyszyn (POL)
Ladies World No.1: Han Yu (CHN)
Men’s World No.1: Alexander Kazakis (GRE)
Mosconi Cup MVP: Skyler Woodward (USA)
Previous Champion: Niels Feijen (NED)
Asian Champion: Ko Pin-yi (TPE)
US Open Champion: Jayson Shaw (SCO)
World 9 Ball Champion: Joshua Filler (GER)
Such was the high standard of the field that there were plenty of 50/50 games on the opening day. Alex Pagulayan, a former winner of this event, beat Wu Jiaqing, one of the favourites for this event, while young Russian Fedor Gorst, the 2017 WPA World Junior Champion, continued his emergence with a big win over Naoyuki Oi.
Albin Ouschan enjoyed a comfortable win over Philippines’ Jeff De Luna and in the final match of the afternoon, 2017 champ, David Alcaide beat compatriot Francisco Sanchez Ruiz. Both players had previously competed at the same venue a couple of weeks ago when they competed in snooker’s Gibraltar Open which Sanchez Ruiz particularly impressing against world ranked snooker players.
The evening saw a comfortable win for two-time Masters champ Shane Van Boening, whilst the opening match featured former world no.1 Klenti Kaci against 1997 Masters winner Earl Strickland. The Albanian ran out a 7-2 winner but Strickland was his usual incendiary self as he bickered with the crowd and did everything he could to unsettle his opponent but ultimately undid himself.
Commented Kaci, “I enjoyed every single moment of the match. I was happy to play Earl because I have been watching him since I was very young, he was one of my inspirations.”
Earl didn’t quite see it that way, “I can’t play I guess, that’s what it is. Those guys over there were sharking me the whole time. They singled me out over there. I’d like to see them do that in golf, they’d put him in jail.
“It is too cold in here for me. You really want to know what I think about this? One, they don’t have the right to sit over there and grab a beer while I’m shooting the 6-ball. Two, this place is way too cold. Don’t say it’s the same for everybody, cos it isn’t. I am 38 years older than him, I wonder if the commentators have mentioned that?
Hitting his stride, ‘The Pearl’ continued, “The guy is a good player. He is not a great player. He has a long life, he is not great yet. He might be.
“I can still play but I am not being given the opportunity to play. I don’t compete because there are no tournaments. Pool is in jeopardy. It’s not hunky-dory. All you want to hear is a reaction, or you want to see me break a cue or something like that. I have watched Serena Williams break a thousand tennis rackets and nobody has condemned me the way I was in the Mosconi Cup when I broke one. Why are you singling me out? The whole world is acting up, not just me.
“I know he is a great kid, but you have to remember I am 58 years old and I need warmer conditions. I won’t be back.”
Young Australian Justin Sajich upset the odds with a terrific win over fancied Finn Petri Makkonen. Australians haven’t enjoyed the greatest of successes at the Masters but Sajich put in an excellent performance.
“The more opportunities we get, we are grateful for the chance to play these big tournaments. It is a dream come true,” said Sajich.
There was more joy for the down under contingent as New Zealand’s Matt Edwards kept himself together to upset an out-of-sorts Chris Melling in the day’s final match.
Melling made too many errors for a match of this standard but full credit to Edwards for stepping up to the plate and asserting himself for victory.
Commented Edwards, “I was supporting Justin there and when I saw he got the win I thought I can’t let him get all the glory so I’ll get out there and do it for New Zealand. This is 9 ball pool, there’s a lot of pressure, anything can happen and you’ve just got to back yourself.”
Eklent Kaci (ALB) 7 – 2 Earl Strickland (USA)
Shane Van Boening (USA) 7 – 2 Kelly Fisher (ENG)
Petri Makkonen (FIN) 4 – 7 Justin Sajich (AUS)
Chris Melling (ENG) 3 – 7 Matt Edwards (NZL)
Wu Jiaqing (CHN) 4 – 7 Alex Pagulayan (CAN)
Fedor Gorst (RUS) 7 – 2 Naoyuki Oi (JAP)
Albin Ouschan (AUT) 7 – 2 Jeffrey De Luna (PHI)
David Alcaide (ESP) 7 – 3 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz (ESP)
Play continues Saturday afternoon with four Round One matches:
Niels Feijen (NED) – David Alcaide (ESP)
Han Yu (CHN) – Shane van Boening (USA)
Ko Pin-Yi (TPE) – Alex Pagulayan (CAN)
Alexander Kazakis (GRE) – Justin Sajich (AUS)