Pool will get a new king as Kaci, Garcia, Biado and Wu chase glory in Doha
After a day of intense pool drama mostly played at the highest levels of the sport, the 2017 World 9-ball Championship has come down to just four players remaining. And what a final four it promises to be.
In one semi-final, Taiwan’s newest pool playing super hero, 22 year Wu Kun Lin, will take on Filipino veteran Carlo Biado, who at 34 years old seems more ready than ever to ascend to the mountain top.
In the other semi-final sits another Filipino, Roland Garcia, who once studied at the foot of the legendary Efren Reyes and has, this week, been showcasing similar magician-like skills. The 36 year old Garcia will square up against pool’s new wunderkind in 18 year old Albanian Klenti Kaci.
Both semi-finals will be race to 11, alternate break and will be played concurrently at 10am Doha time(GMT +3) at the Al Arabi Sports Club. The finals will be a race to 13, alternate break and will begin at 2pm Doha time.
Not only did Wednesday’s action ensure that pool will have a brand new, first time champion come Thursday evening, but it also proved that old axiom that seems to be a common occurrence in pool; once you think you’ve seen it all, something else quickly comes along to prove you wrong.
In this case, unfortunately, that something else had absolutely nothing to do with pool skills played out on the blue pitch. The incident in question happened right at the start of the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Biado had come off a grueling test against fellow Filipino Jeffrey Ignacio, outlasting his younger compatriot 11-7 to advance to the final 8. After a 90 minute rest, Biado sat in his chair waiting for his opponent, China’s Liu Haitao, who had earlier stormed back from a 10-8 deficit to win his final 16 match, 11-10 against Taiwan’s Ko Ping Chung. The veteran Liu, however, was nowhere to be found.
As it turned out, Liu had gone back to his nearby hotel between sessions for a bit of a rest and had likely forgotten to wake up in time. Tournament officials at the hotel were able to roust Liu and put him in a van to try and beat the clock, where rules stated that players get a 15 minute grace period to show up for a match. But Liu arrived at the Al Arabi Sports Club ten minutes past the grace period and found himself disqualified. A shell shocked Liu couldn’t believe what had just happened, and neither could Biado, who was awarded the match by an 11-0 score line without firing in a single ball.
Whether the lack of a match in the quarterfinals will help or hurt the Filipino is anyone’s guess. Certainly, however, Biado is well positioned to finally ascend to the mountain top of the sport after over 15 years of taking his lumps in all corners of the globe. For many years he was seen as this super talented nice guy who kept banging on the door of success, but without much luck. But in 2015 Biado started to crack the door open, especially when he came within a few racks of winning the World 10-ball championship against Taiwan’s Ko Pin Yi. Then earlier this year, Biado achieved his biggest success to date when he captured a coveted gold medal at the World Games in Poland. The Filipino is clearly not afraid to win and win big, and Thursday could see him finally grab pool’s ultimate prize.
Biado will first have to match wits with rising Taiwanese star Wu Kun Lin. The 22 year old has quietly been making a name for himself this year amongst the stacked talent field that is Taiwanese professional pool. Several months back he traveled to the US and reached the semi-finals in the World Pool Series in New York. On Wednesday, Wu proved himself by first crushing defending champion Albin Ouschan, 11 – 3. He then poured it on against fellow Taiwanese Hsieh Chia Chen, winning handily, 11 – 7.
Wu’s silky smooth stroke and dead-eyed potting ability make him a serious threat in any match he enters and his showdown with Biado promises to be tight. Biado, however, certainly has the edge in terms of experience.
Garcia is less well known than Biado but those who follow pool know the special talent and promise that the 36 year old has always possessed. Garcia hails from the same region of the Philippines as the legend Reyes, and in fact learned the game as a kid by hanging around with the Hall of Famer. At one point about 12 years ago, Garcia was considered a protégé of Efren and had the one of a kind pool skills to wow any audience.
Like many Filipinos, Garcia had long concentrated on the money game circuit, but it’s only in the last three years that he has turned his attention to serious tournament play. He also moved to Pattaya, Thailand where he works as a pro at the Megabreak pool hall. These changes have brought Garcia’s rare skills to the fore, and he has started to climb the ladder of tournament success.
This week in Doha, Garcia has lit up the arena in breathtaking style. He came into his round of 16 match against Taiwan’s Ko today an underdog, but he blew past the former world champion as if Ko didn’t even exist, winning 11-8.
In the quarters Garcia met up with Venezuelan-Jordanian Jalal Yousef. The veteran Youself was having his best ever world championship and came into the match clearly in the zone, having just disposed of China’s Dang Jinhu, 11 -7. But Garcia’s was in even more rarefied territory and tore through Yousef like a hot knife through butter, winning the match 11-4 and claiming a spot in the semi-finals.
Garcia will have to maintain his incredible pace on Thursday for he is up against a player in Kaci who appears absolutely unstoppable. The 18 year old Albanian’s superb skills and seemingly impenetrable armor were on full display again today in his two matches. Kaci first dismantled Canada’s John Morra, 11-6. He then faced off with one of the young surprises of the event, the 23 year Maung Maung from Myanmar.
Maung Maung had earlier taken down Germany’s brash 20 year old phenom Joshua Filler, 11-6, in the round of 16. Against Kaci, the sharp shooting Maung, who has lived in China for the last three years, took an early lead. But the methodical and clinical Albanian held his ground and smothered Maung going away in an 11-7 victory.
With two World Pool Series wins and a runner up finish at the US Open under his belt this year alone, the unflappable Kaci would seem to be the favorite of the four semi-finalists ready to chase pool history on Thursday. He is clearly a rare pool talent, a prodigy of the likes of Wu Chia Ching, who won the World 9-ball and World 8-ball crowns in 2005 at the age of 16. Should he pull off two wins on Thursday and claim world 9-ball supremacy, Kaci will surely go down in pool history.
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