By Keith Paradise/CSI Media Staff Writer
The matchup looked like something right out of 1999, instead of 2019.
Earl Strickland and Ralf Souquet share a lot of common ground. Both have had long, decorated careers in pool that have resulted in multiple world championships as well as induction into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.
Tuesday afternoon, they shared center stage in the main arena of the Predator World 10-ball Championship in a winner’s side matchup, with Souquet taking advantage of a pair of late Strickland mistakes to wipe out a 6-4 deficit and win, 8-6, at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Both worked to overcome some rust in the early stages. Strickland built an early 2-0 lead when Souquet failed to pocket a ball on the break in the first game and then missed a 6-ball in the second rack. The German said he felt good after opening warm ups but struggled with coldness in his hands as well as the speed of the cloth when the match began.
“I couldn’t get comfortable with the whole situation,” Souquet said.
Strickland appeared poised to increase his lead in the third game but missed a table-length shot on the 9-ball. The German tied the match in the fourth game and the two competitors split the next four games until Strickland used a break and run and a Souquet scratch on the break to jump out ahead 6-4 in a standing room and very pro-Strickland audience.
Down the stretch, Souquet regained control of the match in the same way that Strickland had obtained it: maximization of opponent mistakes. The German narrowed the deficit to 6-5 when Strickland fouled in the 11th game after attempting a combination shot with the 2-ball and pocketed the wrong ball, then added a break-and-run to tie the score. Souquet took the lead when Strickland deposited the cue ball into the side pocket on the break in the 13th game.
“You have to hope for any chance that he gives you,” said Souquet. “He probably played a little better throughout the whole match. You just have to wait for a mistake. Maybe a scratch on the break or maybe he takes position for granted and you just have to go from there.”
Souquet saved his best break for last as he landed four balls – causing even Strickland to let out a “wow” from his chair. Souquet then closed out the rack and the match.
The German now advances to the final 16 on the winner’s side where he will face Alex Kazakis of Greece at 5:30 p.m. local time Wednesday.
Competition opened Tuesday with eight matches on the winner’s side of the bracket, including Chris Melling using some stellar shooting along with some breaking struggles by opponent Toru Kuribayashi to cruise to an 8-1 victory. After trading the first two racks, the Englishman used the next three racks to stifle Kuribayashi with safety play then run out after his opponent provided an opening. Meanwhile, Kuribayashi struggled with his break, failing to pocket balls three times.
“I played nearly perfect. I didn’t miss a ball,” said Melling after the match. “My only mistake was when I scratched on the break.”
Tuesday’s late afternoon and early evening was reserved for the one-loss side of the bracket, with two sets of win-or-go-home matches taking place.
One of those who survived was Raymund Faraon, who trailed throughout his match with Fan Yang except at the most important time: the end. Using a handful of tactical safeties and some clutch shot-making, the Filipino overcame a 6-3 deficit to defeat the 2015 World Chinese 8-ball champion, 8-7.
With 120,000 spectators watching online in his native China, Yang used his powerful break shot and a couple of mistakes by Faraon to build a commanding 6-3 lead in a race to eight. Faraon tacked on two games to cut the deficit to 6-5 after Yang came to the table in both games and failed to clear the racks. After the two players traded breaks-and-runs to push the score to 7-6, Yang had the break and a chance to finish the match in the 14th game. However, Yang lost a safety exchange on the 1-ball and Faraon tied the score at seven games each.
History would repeat itself in the deciding game, with Faraon breaking and failing to find an open shot on the 1-ball. The Filipino played safe, pushing the cue ball to the opposite end of the table of the 1-ball with the 3-ball blocking the path. Yang missed his attempt at a jump shot and left Faraon the opening he needed for the victory.
Russia’s Fedor Gorst also staved off elimination with a comeback of his own, capitalizing on a handful of unforced errors by opponent Matt Edwards of New Zealand to erase a 6-2 deficit and win, 8-6. Trailing 6-5, Gorst was given an opportunity to tie the score when his opponent fouled on a jump shot attempt. It appeared the young Russian’s comeback attempt might be halted in the 13th game when he pushed a 3-ball right of the corner pocket, but was given new life when Edwards missed the 8-ball. The New Zealander had an opportunity to run out and tie the score in the following game but missed the 2-ball in the corner pocket.
The third day of the Predator World 10-ball Championship begins at 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday. The live broadcast feed gets underway at 12:30 p.m. with Mario He taking on Liu Cheng Chieh. The 3 p.m. match will be determined by the winners of earlier matches and the 5:30 p.m. match will involve Chris Melling facing Jung-Lin Chang in a winner’s side matchup. The 8 p.m. broadcast pairing will also be announced later in the day.
The Predator World 10-ball Championship is a presentation of CueSports International and sponsored by Predator Group. Predator Group is an international billiard industry leader with a focus on high-performance cues and shafts as well as bringing constant innovation and game-improving equipment to billiard players worldwide. The event is being hosted by the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and broadcast live on YouTube by CSI Media, a subsidiary of Cue Sports International. For more information, visitwww.world10ball.com