Gomez, De Luna Take charge in Shanghai Guinness 9-Ball Tour

Two of the Philippines' hottest young cue masters won their opening matches to take charges the Filipinos campaign at the start of fifth and final leg of Guinness 9-ball tour in Shanghai, China yesterday.

Jeffrey De Luna, the 2006 Doha Asian games 9-ball silver medallist who replaced 2004 Taiwan World 9-ball champion Alex Pagulayan, edged Indon Ricky Yang, 9 – 7, while Roberto Gomez moved one step closer to clinching a Grand Final slot by crushing Singapore's standout cuiest Bernard Tey, 9 – 3.

Racing to an early 4 – 2 advantage against Yang, the 24-year-old De Luna was able to dictate the tempo of the match and frustrated his opponent with precise positional plays and consistent potting. But midway through the contest, the Indonesian finally began to heat up which allowed him to get back in the game via break and run outs at the 7th, 9th and 11th racks to close within one at 5 – 6.

Rattled by the sudden shift in momentum, De Luna momentarily lost his concentration and bungled a simple four ball approach at the 13th rack and a foul on a counter safety attempt on the blue 2 in the next. The two consecutive errors breathed life into Yang's campaign as he managed to capitalize on the Filipino's miscues and level the score at 7 racks a-piece.

Breaking next, Yang, the 2006 POBSI National champion, could have retaken the lead but unfortunately his stroke betrayed him on the one ball pot off the break causing him to fluke the shot. Reluctantly, Yang trudged back to his seat as he watched De Luna effortlessly clean up his mess to sit on the hill 8 – 7.

It was the last time the Sungei Brambang native would see action in the Group C opener as De Luna, already able to recover from his earlier mistakes attacked the table – utilizing his patented power break to give him a clear path towards victory.

It was a different story over at the Group B preliminaries. While De Luna had to struggle versus Yang, his compatriot, the 28-year-old Divisoria, Zamboanga City native Gomez, encountered little resistance from the Tour's eighth seeded competitor Tey.

It was a matchup that had serious implications for the campaigns of the two players as Gomez and Tey both needed to produce remarkable performances in Shanghai in order to ensure a slot for Bali where only the Top Ten will qualify.

Although the Singaporean was already occupying a slot in the Top Ten with 100 aggregate points, bowing down in the preliminaries was not a desired option as a poor performance could jeopardize his Grand Final ticket given the myriad of challengers just outside the cut-off margin. On the other hand, Gomez, with 60 points through his stints in the Genting Highlands and Singapore legs, needed to reach at least the finals to have a shot at the US$70,000.00 rich Grand Final. For the Filipino, losing at this stage of the three day tournament was not an option.

As such, winning the Shanghai opener in such an emphatic fashion could only prove to bolster Gomez' confidence and morale.

Right off the get go, the willpower to succeed was evident in the Filipino. From the way he approached the table to the way he observed his opponents play, Gomez was the epitome of determination and fortitude.

Also known as the "Superman" in the local circuit, Gomez showcased remarkable skill and pace control to steal the thunder from Tey right off the get go. Although it was obvious his form was on, Gomez never forced the issue as he remained patient and chose to pick his shots carefully.

This approach proved to be most effective and was the winning formula for the Filipino in his encounter with Tey who only managed to score in the 1st, 6th and 10th racks.

For the second wave of group matches, De Luna will be testing the pocketing prowess of China's Jian Bo Fu while Gomez will challenge He Wen Li, another Chinese bet who is also chasing Order of Merit points.

Two more Filipinos were seeing action as of press time. Lee Vann Corteza, the 28-year-old Negros Billiard Stable (NBS) ace was clashing with Thailander Nitiwat Kanjanasri and in the evening session, dueling with Chinese-Taipei's sentimental favourite two-time world pool champion Taiwanese Fong-Pang Chao. The reigning Philippine champion with 80 Order of Merit points needs to have a flawless execution of his game as well, as he is currently tied with Hong Kong's Chi Wai Au and Naoyuki Oi for the tenth spot. Meanwhile, reigning double world champion Ronato Alcano will have less pressure in his Group F draw against China's Shu Chun Zhang and Oi as he already has 110 accumulated points through his participation in the 2007 tour.