Appleton wins US Open

Darren Appleton

It all came down to the slow roll of an 8-ball, which broke out of the match’s 28th rack, bounced off a long rail, meandered its way to the opposite side pocket through a flurry of other balls and just did drop in. Eight balls later, Darren Appleton of Pontefract, England,  completed a run of nine straight matches to go undefeated through a field of 256 on hand for the 35th Annual US Open-9 Ball Championships. He became the first British citizen to win the title. The $50,000-added event was once again, for the 14th straight year, held at the Chesapeake Convention Center from October 17-23.

Appleton’s trail to the finals began on Sunday, October 17th with an 11-5 victory over Ronald Tutein. Over the course of the event’s six days, he would play a total of 154 games, winning almost 60% of them (91).  He gave up, on average, only seven racks per match. His nine-match winning streak included two wins over Deuel, as well as victories over Israeli champion Zion Zvi (11-8), Ronnie Alcano (11-7), Efren Reyes (11-5),  and David Alcaide (11-8). In the battle for the hot seat, he defeated two-time defending champion, Mika Immonen 11-9.

Deuel came into the finals having won five matches in both brackets, defeating, among others, Keith Bennett (11-5),  Shane Van Boening (11-8), Rodney Morris (11-9), Jason Klatt (11-1), and in the semifinals, Mika Immonen 11-3. He defeated Warren Kiamco twice, once in each bracket. He defeated him in a double hill battle in the fifth round on the winners’ side and defeated him with the event’s new ‘win by two’ rules in the quarterfinals.  It was Appleton who sent him to the one-loss side in the sixth round 11-8, and Appleton who denied him his second US Open title with a thrilling 14-12 victory in the finals.

“It all came down to the breaks,” said Deuel  at the conclusion of the match. “I broke twice to keep it alive, and on his last break, the 8-ball just rolled in there.

“I made a few outs to keep myself in it,” he added, “but hats off to him.”

“I have a lot of respect for (Deuel’s) game,” Appleton said, “and I knew that if I was to going win it, I was going to have to pot a few balls.

“It was a great event,” he added. “I wanted it badly, and I stayed patient.”

Reflecting Deuel’s assessment of the match, between the two of them, the match featured seven break-and-runs; four by Deuel. Deuel, though, was also on the ‘winning’ side of a dubious honor; of the seven times they broke dry, Deuel recorded seven of those.

The two battled back and forth to a 4-4 tie, at which point, Appleton strung together four in a row to take what was looking to be a commanding lead at 8-4. Deuel came back to win two, including a break-and-run rack that made it 8-6. One of Deuel’s dry breaks then gave Appleton the opportunity to go up by three again.  In the 16th rack, the pace slowed a bit, as the two of them played safe, seven times with the 1-ball, before Appleton broke the string of safeties. He got all the way to the 5-ball, and then scratched, to give Deuel ball in hand. Deuel ran out to narrow Appleton’s lead to two at 9-7.

Appleton committed one of his six unforced errors in the match in game 17, Deuel ran out and it was a single game lead for Appleton.  Appleton won, Deuel responded, and it was 10-9. Appleton won the 20th game for an 11-9 lead, but Deuel took advantage of another unforced error by Appleton to make it 11-10 and then broke and ran to tie the score for the first time since the eighth game. He took the lead in the next rack, for the first time since the seventh game, with his second straight break and run.

Another dry break for Deuel knotted things at 12, and with a break and run of his own, Appleton won the game that would normally have ended the contest. But with the ‘ahead by two’ rule in play, Deuel got a chance at redemption and took advantage to tie the match at 13-13.

Deuel then recorded his second scratch of the match; this one on the break, and it was ‘advantage’ Appleton, 14-13, moving into the 28th game.  It came down, in that final game, to that slow-rolling 8-ball. With the table layout at hand, had it stayed out, Deuel would likely have run the table and tied the match at 14. But that 8-ball did drop and Appleton ran the table to complete his undefeated week at the US Open.

Deuel ended up sinking 133 of the 218 balls he shot at, giving him a higher shot percentage (60%) than Appleton, who’d sunk 91 of the 154 balls he’d shot at and ended up with 59%.  Amidst great fanfare at the Accu-Stat broadcast table, founder and promoter Barry Behrman handed Appleton his mock oversize check for $40,000, the event trophy and a gold Delta-13 rack. Deuel pocketed $15,000 for his second place finish, while Mika Immonen took home $10,000 for third place. Champagne was passed around, and Behrman invited one and all to the traditional post-US Open party at his Q Master Billiards location in VA Beach.