Japan’s Close Call over Korea

The Brunswick Korea vs Japan Ultimate Pool Challenge continued on Day 2 with Japan's Miyuki Sakai having to face Korea's #1 player on the team Woong Dae Kim. Sakai had been jittery from her TV debut nerves while Kim seemed to be struggling with his game. Game 1 saw Sakai hit the 1 ball and then fluke the 9 Ball in. Game 2 had Kim break and run out. Game 3 Sakai broke and ran out . Game 4 Kim made a good out with a easy striaght in shot to the side pocket with the 9 Ball. To the gasp of the audience he missed the 9 Ball giving Sakai a chance. She took her time out, looked at the shot, seemed to hold her breath and hit the 9Ball dead center of the pocket for the win! In a match where Team Korea was presuming a win, Japan's #1 girl rained on their parade. Woong Dae wouldnt have much time to recuperate from his surprise lost as he would have to face Japan's #1 Takenaka. Kim seemed determined to make up for his loss and Team Korea were cheering him on as hard as they could for support. At 3-3, Takenaka made a break and run despit Kim's valiant efforts. No Japan extended their lead to 6-4. THe 4-on-4 scotch was next and Korea needed to stop the momentum of Japan. Japan broke and ran the first rack. Korea broke and ran the 2nd rack. Japan made an error in game 3 giving Korea an easy out. Park made his shot and gave Lim an easy 8 Ball but she botched it badly and let Japan go up 2-1 in the set. They then proceeded to break and run the last rack extending the lead to 7-4.

Korea was now in dire straits. It was now the 2 on 2 match where 2 men would play against 1 woman/1 man. Korea being the trailing team had the option to choose which they would play first. They opted to send out Williams and Kim and keep Park and Lim together for next. Japan kept Sakai and Nagata together and sent them in. Williams and Kim won the first game but a easy miss by Kim set up Japan with a tie 1-1. Then a miss on the 1ball by Williams gave Japan another out. The 4th game saw Sakai giving Nagata tough position errors which Nagata shot his way out of. Sakai faced a table length but makeable 9 Ball to finish the Korean men off, but nerves were showing as she rattled the 9 Ball and gave Kim and Williams new life as they won that game and proceeded to break and run the last game for a 3-2 win and stopping Japan's momentum. Japan 7 Korea 5

But now the roles would reverse as Lim and Park would have to face Japan's #1 and #2 men Takenaka and Takami. Lim and Park won the first game then the Japanese men came back for the 2nd. Surprisingly, the Korea man and woman duo made it hill-hill and the pressure seemed intense as another upset could be smelled. To the delight of the audience, Lim made some crucial tough shots to give Korea the win and some breathing room keeping Japan from getting to the hill and now Korea would only trail by 1 game.

The plan was now simple, Park would be sent in to tie the match and then Williams would take the lead and hopefully Japan would feel the pressure and Kim would find his game to take the team win.

Things looked well as Park and Takami rematched with a great match concluding with Park lined up with a near straight in 9 Ball only a couple feet away from the pocket. The Korea Team and audience were screaming and cheering with celebration and when Park hit the cue ball and 9 Ball everyone got up to applaud and Park raised his hands up in victory. But the 9 Ball didnt fall! It hung up in the pocket and everyone was stunned including Takami who bewilderingly got up and everyone was shocked and confused. After everyone realized what had happened, Takami shot the 9 Ball in and now Japan was on the hill and 1 match away from finishing off Korea.

Williams would face Nagata next. The heat was on and Williams played a great saftey only to see Nagata come with a 3 rail kick shot and made the 2 ball in the side pocket and ran out. Then he followed up with a break and run to get to the hill 2-0 with Japan one game away for the win. Williams proved why he was needed on Team Korea as he broke and ran out smoothly for the first game and when Nagata came dry on the next game, Williams played a cat and mouse safety game before Williams was given a long tough 1 ball which he made for the out. Now all the Koreans were excited with the chance to stay alive with Williams breaking. A fan yelled out for a break and run and Williams replied with, "9 Ball on the break!"

Williams broke and to the happy screams of the audience and Team Korea the 9 Ball went in off the break! The first one of the whole event!

The score was now 8-7 favor of Japan and Kim would have to face Takenaka again to tie the match. If it tied, both teams would be able to select any player of their choice to play the final match. Williams would be selected for Korea while Takenaka would almost be a sure bet for Japan.

In an intense and hard fought match, Kim and Takenaka once again stood at hill-hill. Kim came dry off the break and gave Takenaka a tough shot and position play on the 1 ball. He came with the shot and went 2 rails with inside english for tricky maneuvering to set up the out. Takenaka kept his hot streak alive with the out and the win as Japan avenged itself with the 9-7 win.

Year 1 was Korea, Year 2 Japan...next year's contest will be even bigger for these two asian rivals!

Brunswick Korea vs Japan Ultimate Challenge will be airing starting next week for 8 weeks on its regular time slot on MBC ESPN and is produced by Dragon Promotions and the Brunswick KPT Korea Pro Pool Tour.