A Look Back at the Recent 2011 Mosconi Cup

DAY ONE (Thursday)
With my press pass in hand I slide in through the back entrance of the arena, it's thirty minutes before the event gets underway, and I am soon sitting at the back of an empty arena. The lights are dimmed, and announcers are running through their intros, the microphone volumes are being adjusted and they are almost ready to go.
Both teams at this point are nervously waiting in their practice rooms, no doubt being given a last minute pep talk from their respective Team Captains Charlie Williams (USA) and Johan Ruysink (Europe). The first of the spectators enter the arena after their one hour wait to get into this sold out event, and try to decide which seat they want for the best view of the proceedings.
It is predicted that this will be a patriotic crowd for the USA Team, but I have been predicting that the relatively small European contingent on hand will out shout, and out chant the mild mannered US crowd. Let us wait and see!!!
Now the arena is packed to capacity and John the MC is running through his warm up patter with the crowd. Same gags every year, but it works and he soon has the crowd in the palm of his hand. (Man goes to see his doctor. The doctor says take off all your clothes. The patient says where do you want me to put them. Put them on that chair on top of mine says the doctor!!!) The crowd lap it up and are being worked into a frenzy with just minutes to go, as both teams can now clearly be seen waiting to make their entrance into the arena like gladiators.
Believe me the opening ceremony has to be seen to be believed. The emotions and the trepidation of how the days play will go can only be guessed, and everybody is hoping to see the so called rookies Mike Dechane (USA) and Chris Melling (Europe) play each other in the singles matches that are the first order of the day. Will they succumb to nerves, we will have to wait and see!!
Bingo!!! Up go the lights, the crowd erupts and the No 1 event in pool is underway. The gladiators enter the arena while the crowd is shown a video of highlights from the 14 years that the Mosconi Cup has been played. What a spectacle!! I have tried to paint a picture of just how great it is to witness the Mosconi Cup first hand. If you have never witnessed it live, make sure you treat yourself next year and see if I am right !!!! It is hard to imagine, but the event is even more exciting when played in London. The home crowd reaction has to be seen to be believed. Maybe I will see you there!!
The team introductions are made, the team Captains interviewed, and the team hugs are over, and now Michaela Tabb (Referee) introduces the first match up in the singles matches. This format is a way of showcasing both teams immediately to the fans, and has both line ups playing one game each, twice in succession until one of the teams reaches 6 games.
The first two players up are Shane Van Boening (USA) vs Ralf Souquet (Europe) - Ralf comes up dry, and Shane plays safe - Ralf kicks and lucks in the 1 ball, then plays safe and wins the battle and gets the score to 1-0 to Europe.
Next up we have Johnny Archer (USA) (playing his fifteenth consecutive Mosconi Cup, 1997 to 2011) vs Nick van den Berg (Europe) - Johnny breaks and makes 1 & 2 balls, then plays safe on 3 ball - Nick hit's the 3 ball, but leaves Johnny a really long shot. It goes in like it has eyes, and now we have the score at 1-1.
Now we have Shawn Putnam (USA) vs Niels Fiejen (Europe) - Niels breaks makes 1 & 3 ball, then plays safe - Shawn plays safe, but Niels plays lock up safe - Shawn jumps, but leaves 2 ball showing - Niels runs out - Score line now 2-1 to Europe
Next up we have the match everyone has been waiting to see - Yes, the so called rookies Mike Dechane (USA) vs Chris Melling (Europe) - well this would be disappointing for Melling fans as Mike breaks and runs out - very impressive run out by first time pick Mr. Dechaine, who as he had predicted showed no signs of nerves in a clinical run out to make the score line 2-2. (It should be said that Chris did not play bad in his first game, he just did not play!!!)
Now we get to see Rodney Morris (USA) vs Darren Appleton (Europe) the man of the moment (with two US Opens in consecutive years 2010 & 2011) - Darren breaks makes 4 ball but has no shot - elects to push, Rodney gives it back - Darren kicks and leaves shot for Rodney who plays a bad safe - Darren plays safe on the 1 ball leaving a long shot - Rodney consults with team mate Johnny at this point and he eventually takes it on, but leaves easy shot for Darren, who runs out - this did not look like the quick firing Rodney that we are used to seeing - Score now 3-2 to Europe.
Next up Shane Van Boening (USA) vs Ralf Souquet (Europe) (Ralf has also played fifteen times on the Mosconi Cup, but not consecutive. He also played in the first Mosconi Cup in 1994!!) - Shane comes up dry, maybe as a result of the Magic Rack - Ralf runs out - Score now 4-2 to Europe.
It should be pointed out that both referees were having trouble getting tight racks using the Magic Rack, and they decided on day two not to use it for the rest of the event. Instead they used a regular rack. The continual re-racking was obviously not good for live TV, although most of the racking was done in the commercial breaks, it was the incoming breaker that would raise the problem when the cameras were rolling. They should have had the player look at it during the break and maybe that would have resolved the problem.
Next up we had Johnny Archer (USA) vs Nick van den Berg (Europe) - Nick came up dry on the break - Johnny ran out, playing a great shot on the 6 ball - Score now 4-3 to Europe.
Next up Shawn Putnam (USA) vs Niels Feijen (Europe) - Shawn makes the 1 & 7 ball on the break, but gets hooked on the 5 ball - Shawn kicks, but leaves a shot - Niels runs out - Score now 5-3 to Europe.
We now had the return match up of Mike Dechane (USA) vs Chris Melling (Europe) - Chris makes two balls on the break, but scratches - Mike comes to the table, makes the 2 ball, but gets out of position on the 3 ball - He plays a great safe - Chris kicks and gets an even better safe - Mike leaves shot for Chris, who runs out - Score now 6-3 to Europe. Which puts the first point on the board for Team Europe. Europe 1 - USA 0
Was I ever right!!! After just nine singles games, the European fans have taken charge of the cheerleading proceedings, and are out chanting and out shouting the USA fans by what sounds like 2 to 1. The USA Team should get Dennis Hatch to fly in from Buffalo, and work his magic from the 2009 Mosconi, when he earned the MVP Award and was also the cheerleader supreme.
Johnny Archer (USA) & Shawn Putnam (USA) vs Chris Melling (Europe) & Nick van den Berg (Europe) - This match soon had Europe ahead 3-1, but by dint of some great team play the USA side turned the score around big time and amazingly came out the winners at 6-3 to USA. That's five games straight for the win - Wow !!!! Score now 1-1 (tied match) Just before this match began, Charlie was giving Shawn a rallying pep talk. He put his arms round him and was obviously telling him how good he is as a player and to put his two previous losses in the singles to Niels Feijen behind him. What ever he said seemed to work, because they really gelled well together to get the win.
It should be noted that today was a first for Ken Shuman who took control of this match as referee, making his debut as a Mosconi Cup official - The UK contingent of fans were quick to chant "Help I'm out Michaela, help I'm out Michaela" as Ken was trying to tighten up the rack. This did nothing to help his first day jitters, I am sure!!!
Next up Rodney Morris (USA) vs Niels Feijen (Europe) - This match really showed that Rodney was having a bad day - as he never took one game from the Dutch player called the Terminator - and terminate he did with a score of 6 - ZIP. Score now Europe 2 - USA 1. The following happened to Rodney during the match: Fouled to allow run out - rack 1)- Scratched on break leaving run out (rack 2) - Illegal break leading to run out (rack 3) - Dry break (rack 4) - Hooks himself after making one ball in (rack 5)- Dry break (rack 6) - A match to forget, me thinks!!!
Next up Shane Van Boening (USA) & Mike Dechane (USA) vs Ralf Souquet (Europe) & Darren Appleton (Europe) - Mike made 4 balls on the break in rack 3 for any easy run out, and the match looked all USA when they got the score to 4-0, but wait for it !!! After posting the 4-0 score things went down hill for the US Duo, with Shane scratching on rack 5, Allowing Team Europe to claw the score back to 4-4. This was all she wrote for team USA, as Europe basically hit them with a six pack (not actual run outs, but equally impressive) and took down the match 6-4 to Europe. This put the overall score at 3-1 to Europe. Wow what a comeback!!!!
Darren and Ralf really showed what it takes to never give up and certainly illustrated what the word team work means. They also got a lot of support from their team mates after each game they won.
Next up we had Shane Van Boening (USA) vs Chris Melling (Europe) two of the hottest properties in the pool world at the moment - Shane gets to 3-0 real quick, and you could easily have given up on young gun Melling at this point, but he dug in and soon got it back to 3-3 - Shane takes the next rack, but just as quickly Chris gets it to 4-4 - Chris keeps up the pressure and gets it to 5-4 to Europe - Chris makes an illegal break in the next rack and also makes two balls in the process - Shane has an easy run out - now we have a hill, hill match, with Shane breaking.
With Shane's break I guess you already have assumed the winner - Oops, dry break for Shane and Mr. Melling delivers the goods with a run out, to put the score at 6-5 to Europe. A very impressive performance on day one by Chris to take down the last match of the day, leaving us with a points total at the end of day one Europe 4 - USA 1
Things did not go very well for Team USA on day one, with Europe looking to be firing on all cylinders, however I am sure that Charlie will be rallying his troops for tomorrow. As they say tomorrow is another day!!!
DAYS TWO, THREE & FOUR to follow in installments, over the next week !!!