World 9-Ball Day 1 Review 
Doha, Qatar

WPA Press Release 
Written By Ted Lerner

The moments before the first rack on the first day of the World 9-ball Championship are never easy, even for the best of players. The tables and conditions are new and untested. Players know they only have to win two race-to-9matches to qualify for the final 64, but things in pool can easily go array as you may come out flat, or the balls might conspire against you.

Even the top players realize that just because you haven’t heard of the guy you’re paired against, it doesn’t mean you’re going to waltz into the money rounds. Indeed while 15 of the WPA’s top 20 players won their opening matches on day 1 in Doha, several big names suffered setbacks, suddenly finding themselves on the one loss side of their groups, and one more loss from unceremoniously exiting pool’s biggest stage.

After 8 hours of pool at its highest level at the Al Arabi sports club, several things stand out loud and clear. The sport of pool has never seen this many highly skilled players from so many different countries. This fact, combined with the new rule this year of racking the balls with the 9-ball on the spot instead of the 1-ball, thereby toughening up the opening break shot, means that the 2016 World 9-ball championship will surely see the world crown contested at the highest level we have ever witnessed.

All 128 players saw action in the double elimination group stages today and, as usual, it seems the Taiwanese are ready to contend yet again. Defending champion Ko Pin Yi had a layup of a match to get things started as he cruised to a 9-1 win over Algeria’s Mohamed Elraousti. As the day progressed, the Taiwanese kept notching up impressive wins, going 8 out of 10; Chang Jun Lin, Chu Hong Ming, Ko Ping Chung (Pin Yi’s younger brother), Hsieh Chia Chen, Li Wen Lo, Wu Kun Lin and Cheng Yu Husan all saw victory. Only Chang Yu Lung and veteran Yang Chin Shun lost.

Many people believe that a European will be standing in the winner’s circle next Thursday because the Europeans have been playing with the 9-ball on the spot on the Euro tour for years, and already understand this breaks shot’s unique complexities. One player in particular with good odds is 2014 World 9-ball Champion Niels Feijen of the Netherlands, who didn’t face a difficult task as he waltzed past Qatar’s Abdul Latif Al Fawal, 9-3. It’s rumored that the Dutchman has put in 1000’s of hours perfecting the break shot and has even unlocked a certain secret about its configuration.

Other notable Europeans notching victories today include two time World 9-ball Champion Thorsten Hohmann of Germany, Greece’s Nikos Ekonomopoulos, Austria’s Albin Ouschan an, and 2012 World 9-ball champion Darren Appleton. Fans looking for a relatively new European face to break through should pay attention to Britain’s Jayson Shaw. The Scotsman recently topped two very strong fields in Europe and is currently leading the points race for the European Mosconi Cup team. This is a young player who is clearly on the rise and anxious to make some waves. “My game is about as good as it’s ever been,” Shaw said after besting Iraq’s Karar Abdulwahed, 9-3. “I’m not putting any pressure on myself. There’s some seriously good players here so I’m just taking it one match at a time and trying to enjoy this atmosphere. My goal is to get into the final 16 and from there, anything can happen.”

It was a solid day for Spain as David Alcaide Bermudez Francisco Pizaarro Diaz , and Francisco Sanchez Ruiz all won. Ruis squeaked by last year’s surprise quarterfinalist from Singapore, Aloysius Yapp

The day proved downright miserable for the USA, as 5 out of six Americans in the field went down to defeat. Last year’s runner up, Shane Van Boening drew a very difficult opponent in 2011 World 9-ball champion Yukio Akagariyama of Japan. The match was close halfway, but Akagariyama, who earned entry into the tournament by winning a qualifier, pulled away to win, 9-5. Only Oscar Dominguez saved the day for the USA, but barely as he squeaked by Poland’sMateusz Sniegocki, 9-8.

As usual the Philippines has one of the largest contingents in the tournament and can be expected to go deep. Dennis Orcollo, Lee Vann Corteza Johann Gonzales Chua Jeffrey Ignacio, Ramil Gallego, Alex Pagulayan (representing Canada), and Jeffrey De Luna were some notable Pinoys who notched wins today. World number 6 Carlo Biado lost to Czech’s Roman Hybler, 9-5.

China’s powerhouse lineup performed solidly today. Former world 9-ball champion Wu Jiaqing, world number 3 Lui Haitao, Li Hewen, Dang Jinghu and three others saw victory.

One of the early revelations of this year’s world championship is just how far players from the Middle East have truly come in competitive 9-ball. In years past Middle Eastern players were just entering these big events for the experience. Now it is clear they are truly on a world class level and will soon start contending and even winning big events. And they are coming from some very surprising places. Nobody thought Iran’s Ali Maghsoud had much of a chance against Hall of Famer and multi world champion Mika Immonen , especially being down 8-5 in the race to 9. But the 27 year old from the Iranian city of Kermanshah buckled down, held his nerve and stormed back to win by a thread, 9-8. “When I was down 8-5, I just knew I was going to come back,” Maghsoud, who owns his own pool club in Iran, said afterward. “He’s a world champion but I was very positive.” Saudi Arabia showed they are a rising pool nation today as Abdul Rahman Al Amar beat Australian Justin Campbell 9-7, while Abdulla Al Shemmari took down the USA’s Hunter Lombardo 9-5. Eritrean Hamzaa M Saeed Ali, who was born and raised in Saudi and still lives there also won, defeating Japan’s Naoyuki Oi, 9-8. The 27 year old Al Almar is clearly knocking on the door to success. Last year he defeated the Philippines Johann Chua in the group stages and made it to the final 64. The former snooker player informed us that pool is actually backed by the government in Saudi and that there are currently over 14,000 registered pool players in the Kingdom. Yes, you read that right; Saudi Arabia is one of pool’s hot spots.

Even Bangladesh rode the winning wave today as MD Alim handily defeated Swedish veteran Marcus Chamat 9-4. The group stages at the 2016 World 9-ball Championship continue on Saturday at the Al Arabi Sports beginning at 10am local time(GMT +3.)

All 128 players will again see action on Day 2, with 32 players advancing into the final 64 Knockout rounds, and another 32 players heading for the exits.

The 2015 WPA World 9-ball Championship takes place at the Al Arabi Sports Club Sports Club in Doha, Qatar from July 30-August 4, 2016. The winner of the 2015 World 9-ball Championship will receive $40,000. The runner up will receive $20,000. The total prize fund is $200,000.