Team Europe has conquered five Bronze Medals already with one chance for a Gold Medal left. That is the brilliant summary for Team Europe so far from the World Junior 9-Ball Championships in Shanghai, China.
Day three started with loser’s round matches where Dina Fatikhova, Diana Khodjaeva and Fedor Gorst all tried to keep a foot in the door for a shot at the medal ranks. While Khodjaeva managed to win her match 7:4 over Kim Bogeon (KOR), her teammates both lost and were eliminated out of the Championships. That takes us to the quarter-final stages.
In the U17, Wiktor Zielinski played against Muhammad Almie bin Yakub (MAS) and easily won that match with 8:2. In the same round, Sanjin Pehlivanovic took down his opponent Martis Gyairon (BON) 8:6. That meant that two medals have already been secured for Team Europe. Kestutis Zadeikis also wanted one of them but his opponent Temuujin Enkhbold (MON) had other plans. Zadeikis trailed 1:6 after seven racks and things looked quite desperate for the young man from Lithuania. But he never gave in and fought his way back into the match to even tie the match after twelve racks at 6:6. Now the pressure was on Enkhbold. An unlucky safety shot from Zadeikis allowed Enkhbold to win rack 13 and get on the hill with a 7:6 lead. In rack 14, Enkhbold had the break shot and he used his chance to finish Zadeikis in the match with 8:6 after a tough fight.
In the U19, Patrick Hofmann, Daniel Maciol and Maksim Dudanets were carrying the European flag high in the quarter-finals. Hofmann deleted Nathan Dietrich (USA) 11:10 from the flowchart. Maciol captured Lo Ho Sum (HKG) 11:8 and Dudanets ended Jesus Atencio Blanco’s (VEN) hopes for a medal with 11:6. That took all three of them into the semi-final round with Dudanets and Maciol having to face one another.
In the girls division, Diana Khodjaeva was the only remaining player from Europe. She faced China’s SHI Tianqi. In the beginning of the match, she had a hard time finding her A-game. She was trailing 2:4 when she decided it would be better to go for a time out. When she came back, the time out seemed to have done its benefit for her since she started playing much better than before. Consequently, she took a 7:4 lead over SHI. But then she broke dry and her opponent took that rack plus another runout to come close to 7:6. However, Khodjaeva remained cool and also took her chances, taking the victory in the match with 9:6. Semi-final reached, mission „go for a medal“ accomplished!
The semi-finals in the U17 brought disappointing results for Team Europe. Though both players gave their best, they could not make it to the final match since their opponents turned out to be better or have the better day at least. Pehlivanovic met Enkhbold and took a 4:2 lead. After that, nothing seemed to work anymore for Pehlivanovic. He could not get into the match and therefore lost 4:8 to win the Bronze Medal in the event. Even closer was Zielinski’s elimination from the Championships. He encountered China’s Zheng Xiao Huai who reached the final last year and lost to Maciol. Zielinski started well and got to a 4:1 lead. But also in this match, the opponent was very tough and never gave in so after 14 racks the match was hill-hill! It was Zielinski’s break and he opened the rack well with balls down. He had the chance to make it to the final but he fell out of position for the 2-ball. He decided to play a jump-shot on the 2-ball but he missed it, leaving an open table for Zheng who used this chance and ran the rack to win the match 8:7. Zielinski has to settle for the Bronze medal which is already a huge achievement.
In the U19, Hofmann was up against Kong De Jing (CHN). Kong proved to be too strong for Hofmann who had an intermediate lead of 7:5. However, his break shot did not work and Kong’s did so in the end Kong advance to the final match with an 11:8 victory over Hofmann. The other semi-final was the all-European affair between Dudanets and Maciol Dudanets had a furious start, taking a comfortable 7:2 lead over Maciol. But last year’s World Champion U17 from Poland continued his fight and after having taken a time-out, he even took an 8:7 lead over his Russian teammate. Racks went back and forth and in the end, Maciol was able to win 11:10 since Dudanets executed an illegal break shot while the match was hill-hill. Bronze Medal win for Hofmann and Duanets while Maciol has a shot at the Gold Medal.
In the girls division, Khodjaeva had to play her fourth match that day since she came from the loser’s side. The semi-final against Chen Chia-Hua (TPE) turned out to be too much of an obstacle for her today. The Chinese played almost without mistakes and rightfully deserved her 9:3 victory over Bronze Medallist Diana Khdjaeva.
Out of 6 Bronze Medals available in the event, Europe has taken 5 with one more medal to come. That is a pretty impressive result for our Junior Team and we will all keep out fingers crossed for Daniel Maciol in his final match against Kong De Jing from China. Go and get it, Daniel!
All Photos © Alison Chang