Gomez KOs Yang, Inches Closer to Guinness Quarterfinals

Filipino Roberto Gomez outclassed former Asian 9-ball tour over-all champion Taiwanese Ching-Shun Yang, 9-2, to inch closer to the quarter-final round of Asia's premier pool competition, the 2007 Guinness 9-Ball Tour late Friday at the spacious Genting Highlands International Convention Center in Malaysia.

The 28-years-old Gomez, member of the star-studded Bugsy Promotion stable, surged ahead to a 5-1 lead to take control of the match. Yang, the winner of the 2nd leg in Taiwan, closed the match at 6-2 count after winning the 8th frame in their three-man group stage. However, Gomez didn't look back enroute the last two remaining racks to earn a devastating 9-2 victory.

Gomez, whose eyeing to duplicate his 2007 Battle of Scandinavia 9-ball crown will face a must win situation against William Ipaenen of Indonesia, who earlier beat Yang, two-time Asian Games 9-ball gold medalist, 9-8, in the morning session yesterday. Yang is already ousted in this event.

Meanwhile, compatriot reigning Philippine National Champion Lee Vann Corteza and 2006 Doha Asian games 9-ball silver medalist Jeffrey de Luna also hurdled their respective rivals.

The 28-years-old Corteza, top player of Negros Billiard Stable (NBS), survived Japan's number one ranked player, Naoyuki Oi, 9 – 7, in their group stage opener while the 24-years-old De Luna, another Bugsy stalwart, nipped Mohd Sapawi Bin Dan of Malaysia, 9-3.

Both, Corteza and De Luna must win their last remaining assignment in their group stage play to advance in the quarter-final round like Gomez.

Corteza playing under the guidance of businessman/ sportsman Jonathan " Bacolod" Sy will face Ryu Sueng Woo of Korea while de Luna takes on Bernard Tey Choon kiat of Singapore.

Meanwhile, Corteza jumped the gun early against his Japanese opponent as he successfully drove the stripped ball home via a 3 – 9 combo in the very first rack and then followed it up with a brilliantly orchestrated run out after Oi broke dry in the second rack to have the early advantage, 2 – 0.

Actually, everything seemed to be going for the Filipino during the early stages of the match as Oi had difficulty finding his stroke which resulted in a lot of miscues and exposed safeties. Not wanting to waste any opportunity, Corteza capitalized on his opponent's struggles, which saw the Negros billiard's stable bet steadily increase his lead to 5 – 2.

However, in the middle stages of the contest, Oi started to heat up as he broke and ran out in the eighth rack which fueled a three rack run highlighted by a superb 1 – 9 corner pocket combo off the break to level the score at 5 racks a-piece.

From there, the two cue artists showcased their best pool as both players traded scores till the 14th rack with the count still tied 7 racks all.

But another break and run out for Corteza in the 15th rack saw the Filipino advance his score to 8 – 7 to sit on the hill.

With pressure mounting, Japan 's number one ranked player bravely attempted a difficult 5 – 9 corner combo. The shot amazingly almost went in but as luck would have it, the striped nine simply refused to go down. With the nine ball sitting precariously at the edge of the pocket, Lee Vann deftly stepped up to the table jacked up on the cue, sliced the five just enough to carom the cue ball towards the nine to sink the shot and end the match at 9 – 7.

Meanwhile, double world champion Ronato Alcano continued to struggle in the 2007 tour as he succumbed to China man Liu Hai Tao, 5 – 9 in his group stage opener.

Asked about why he had a hard time during the contest Alcano said: "Yes I know. I had a really bad time out there. It just seemed my accuracy and shooting did not want to come out. I also made a number of bad safeties which Liu handled quite well. At the same time he (Liu) was having a terrific time at the table. All his shots were sinking and so he really got the best of me. I hope to have a better result in my second match."

Alcano challenges India 's lone bet Dharminder Singh Lilly for the second round of the group stages. Both matches will be at 6pm .

Formerly the Asian 9-Ball Tour, the Guinness 9-Ball Tour has been made bigger and better for players and fans alike with the new partnership between ESPN STAR Sports and Guinness. Total prize money has doubled to US$320,000 (from US$160,000 from last year's tour) and the Tour will feature a grand final in Bali for the Top 10 players. Winners of each leg will win US$15,000 while the Grand Final Champion will walk away with US$36,000.

The Guinness 9-Ball Tour remains the only ranking tour in Asia for players to qualify for the WPA World Pool Championship. The top ten finishers in the Guinness 9-Ball Tour Order of Merit will automatically qualify for pool's most prestigious event, this year's edition slated for a second straight staging for Manila in November.