Back to Back US Open Wins for Immonen

Mika Immonen

For the first time in almost 20 years, we have a repeat Champion at the US Open 9-Ball Championship; and that Champion certainly didn't do it easily.

Defending Champion Mika Immonen started his quest to defend his title with an 11-6 win over Jerry Fitchett, but plans went south in a hurry in round two when Immonen dropped an 11-9 decision to road warrior Chris Bartram. Things were looking pretty grim for Immonen, but that is why the US Open is a double elimination tournament. Immonen buckled down and undertook the almost unheard of task of trying to win thirteen straight matches over five days in order to earn his place in the finals. And then he went ahead and did just that. Immonen navigated the one loss side with notable wins over Thorsten Hohmann, Beau Runningen (a match that Mika trailed in 10-8), Charlie Williams, Bartram (an 11-6 win), Stevie Moore, Rodney Morris, Lee Vann Cortezza and Donnie Mills. All of that, just to earn a shot against previously unbeaten Ralf Souquet in the finals.

Souquet had taken a much smoother (and shorter) route to the finals with notable wins over Huidje See, Stevie Moore, Bartram, Corteza, and Donnie Mills.

The battle between Souquet and Immonen was almost a perfect pairing as both players were playing outstanding 9-ball all week and had shown themselves to be the two best players in the field on this week. And what a battle it was. In the extended race to thirteen, both players were able to exchange multiple table runs and extended safety battles.

Mika took an early 3-1 lead, but a missed two ball in rack 5 let Souquet to the table and he pulled back to 3-2. A scratch on the break put Souquet back in his chair and Mika ran out for 4-2. Mika showed the wear of all the matches on the one loss side and missed a gimme on the 8-ball in rack seven and Souquet inched back within one again at 4-3.

Mika's next real chance at the table happened in rack twelve with Souquet leading 7-4. Souquet went for a tough six ball and missed it. Six racks later, it was Immonen with a 10-7 and in complete control of the match when he missed a one ball and scratched. Ralf got back to 10-8 and was able to notch another rack when Immonen played bad shape on the 8-ball in rack nineteen.

Souquet took control back and tied the score at 10-10 when the players engaged in a safety battle in rack twenty one. Immonen came out on top in that battle and he navigated a tough table run to regain the lead at 11-10. Ralf had a chance in the next rack but scratched while trying to force shape on an 8-ball and Immonen took the hill at 12-10.

Rack twenty three saw Immonen's 9-ball tracking for the corner pocket on the break but come up just short. Unfortunately for Souquet, Mika made a ball on the break and the 1-9 carom was makeable. After sizing up the shot from all angles, Immonen drained the carom and collapsed to the floor after winning the title.

Immonen showed his class by immediately jumping up and calmly congratulating Souquet on the great match and then walking over and shaking hands with Nick Varner who saw his record as the only back to back US Open winner equaled.

Immonen earned $40,000 for first place in the event, while Souquet settled for $15,000 in prize money. Donnie Mills and Lee Vann Corteza filled out the top four finishers.