2006 Philippines World Pool Championship: Reyes, five others lose WPC Opener, Three Filipinos remain unbeaten

(Manila, Philippines) – In a country where pool is considered to be a top sport with millions of followers across the nation expecting a Filipino champion bearing the monicker “Magician” to bring home the 2006 World Pool Championship crown, it can't be easy being Efren Reyes. For the pool icon, being recognized as a national treasure who is expected to showcase a strong showing in the annual tournament, the pressure to live up to the expectations of the nation must be undoubtedly tremendous.

Not one Filipino faltered in their belief that their beloved hero would fail in his quest of emerging on top of the 128 man competition field especially with his recent string of victories in the international stage.

And yet the unimaginable happened—Efren “Bata” Reyes lost.

What is even more astounding is that he lost in his opening group match to a relative newcomer to the tournament, American Tony Crosby in a heartbreaking decision, 8-7, due to a momentary lapse in concentration.

Right from the start, it was an uphill battle for the 1999 World Champion Reyes as the 32 year old Crosby won the lag and took the first rack.

“It's very hard to lose the lag because you also lose the ability to dictate the tempo of the game early on. In this game you need every sort of advantage you can get especially since we are competing against the World's best.” Said a visibly disappointed Reyes.

That being the case, Reyes still matched the intensity of Crosby rack per rack and managed to keep the score tied till the eighth frame, 4-4. But then the 2003 US Rookie of the year upped his skill level and proceeded to orchestrate a stirring three rack run by capitalizing on all the uncharacteristic mistakes of Reyes to sit on the hill, 7-4.

However, the 2006 IPT World 8 ball Open title holder Reyes as always had a few tricks left in his bag to be able to conduct his own three rack run which levelled the playing field at seven racks apiece coming into the 15th frame.

A miscue by Crosby on the pink four ball gave Reyes the golden opportunity to take the match as he methodically picked and pocketed his shots leading up to the nine ball.

It should have been a done deal for the 52 year old as he simply had to guide the last ball home. However, the billiard gods must have been smiling on Crosby 's corner as Reyes by sheer misfortune missed the easy nine ball corner pocket. “The pressure really got to me. ” remarked Reyes. Ultimately, Crosby claimed the match and delivered the tournament's first major upset, 8-7.

Meanwhile, three other Filipinos successfully began their 2006 World pool championship bid yesterday with early wins from Francisco “Django” Bustamante, 2004 Champion Alex Pagulayan and Marlon Manalo here at the plush Philippine International Convention Center.

Bustamante scored a heavily contested win against fellow countryman Jharome Pena, 8-7, in group 10 while Pagulayan delivered a rousing performance against Argentinian Gustavo Espinosa to claim the match, 8-2, over in group 4.

The former world pool runner up Bustamante, had to overcome a surprisingly strong challenge from Pena who had the 42 year old trailing 5-4, coming into the 10th rack. Bustamante had to dig deep to storm back and eventually notch the victory in the nine-day event organized by Raya Sports, Matchroom sport and broadcasted over ESPN.

It was a thrilling spectacle to witness as both Filipinos clearly brought their best to the table, neither one willing to give way as they traded racks and delivering rack runs till the sixth frame.

A careless mistake by Bustamante on the 5 ball in sixth rack however made the match interesting which the young Pena and capitalized on without any hesitations. Pena then proceeded to clean the rack which sparked a two rack run to claim the early lead, 4-3. Bustamante responded immediately to the challenge by taking the eighth, tenth and eleventh racks to regain the lead 6-5. With the momentum on his side he eventually won the contest 8-7.

Over in group 4, Pagulayan had a much easier time bagging his first win of the tournament. Still fresh from his Philippine National Pool Championship stint, “the Lion” delivered the goods in 10 racks, 8-2, allowing his opponent Espinosa to take only two racks for the match.

Meanwhile, Manalo remained “Marvelous” in his group five, bagging his first day assignment and producing a victory over Canada 's Nicolas Guimond, 8-5.

The other Filipinos who did not prevail over their opening day tasks were Antonio Lining and Leonardo Andam who were dealt bitter, 4-8, defeats by Spaniard David Alcaide and Ralf Soquet of Germany respectively, Roland Garcia against Korean Jeong Young-Hwa, 5-8, Ronato Alcano succumbing to Vietnamese Luong Chi Dung, 7-8 and Eduardo Villanueva failing against Italian Fabio Petroni, 3-8.

Despite their losses, Reyes and the other Filipinos still have a chance to advance to the round of 64. They have to at least make it to the top two of their respective group to move on to the knock-out phase, which begins on Wednesday.

Roberto Gomez, and Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat were still playing their respective opening day matches as of presstime.

The 128 players competing have been divided into 32 Groups of 4 players during the first four days of competition. All competitors will play each other once within each group in a race-to-eight, alternate break fomat.

Up for grabs is a total prize of US $400,000 (P20 Million) and the champion's purse of US $100,000 (P5 Million).

ESPN will broadcast all the exhilarating pool action from the opening break down to the final shot at the Philippine International Convention Center. ESPN will be devoting over 60 hours of live and exclusive coverage of the world's biggest and most prestigious pool competition.