Every pool player has a lucky charm, a secret superstition, a favorite cue or shaft, a special gadget or pendant that they take with them wherever they go to try and give them that extra edge. For Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann that lucky charm this week is his ‘old lady.’
No, the two time World 9-ball champion didn’t bring his girlfriend to Qatar this week. The ‘old lady’ Hohmann refers to is a cue stick that brought him his original glory in the sport and helped him to make a Hall of Fame career for himself.
It was back in 2003 when the pool world had yet to hear of this young hot shot from Germany. But then one week in late July in Cardiff, Wales, playing with a cue from German cue maker Michael Vollmer, the then 24 year old Hohmann went on a tear through the toughest field of the year and shocked the pool world, winning his first World Pool Championship.
Success brought sponsors and Hohmann put away the Michael Vollmer cue for a Lucasi, who sponsored ‘the Hitman’ for the last 12 years. Recently, though, the contract with the cue maker ended, and with few successes to speak of in the last two years, Hohmann decided to dig into his closet and bring out his old friend. It was love at second sight.
Together with his ‘old lady,’ Hohmann today advanced to the final 16 at the 2017 World 9-ball Championship, winning two matches and exuding the confidence and joy for the game he exhibited in 2003 and again in 2013 when he won his second World 9-ball crown in this very venue. Can the ‘Hitman’ do it again, over the next two days, and become only the second man, with Earl Strickland, to capture three World 9-ball crowns? Hohmann knows better than to get ahead of himself. But with the ‘old lady’ in his hands, the German great is feeling better than he has in years, and clearly can’t wait to get out on the blue pitch and compete at the highest levels.
“I’m happy with the way I played,” Hohmann said after a heart thumping 11-10 win against Taiwan’s Chang Yu Lung in the final 32. “I’m breaking pretty good. I made a few mistakes and if I want to win I can’t make those kinds of errors.
“There are so many great players in this tournament so anything can happen. But I’m very confident now. I got my old cue back, the one I used to win my first World 9-ball Championship back in 2003. My contract with Lucasi ended, 12 years I’m grateful for the time with them, but now I’m back to my old lady and I’m just enjoying it, hitting the ball solid and I’m really having fun playing the game. That’s what I’m really looking forward to. Everyday I’m really looking forward to playing. I’m excited, I got my cue back, I like the tables, I like the conditions, but I take it match by match.”
Hohmann is right to keep his expectations in check , for there are 15 other monsters left out of the 64 who started the days play at the Al Arabi Sports Club in Doha who could just as well find themselves lifting pool’s most prestigious crown come Thursday. Hohmann will face off with Taiwan’s Hsieh Chia Chen, who is one of four Taiwanese to make up the final 16 players.
Defending champion Albin Ouschan certainly knows how to get the job done, and his two wins today will certainly bolster his confidence from here on in. The Austrian first grinded out a win over Kuwaiti Abdullah Alyusef, 11-6, in the round of 64. He then went toe to toe with Korea’s Woo Seung Ryu, winning 11-9 in a match that took nearly three hours. In the final 16 Ouschan will duke it out with up and coming 23 year old Taiwanese Wu Kun Lin.
Ko Pin Yi preceded Ouschan on the winner’s podium here in 2015 and has been quietly showing his superb class in Doha this week. Today the amazing Ko first manhandled Austria’s Max Lechner, 11-3. The former World 9-ball and World 10-ball champion then went out and crushed fellow Taiwanese Chih Nien Rong, 11-4. In the final 16 Ko will take on the Philippines Roland Garcia. Garcia, who was once a protégé of the legendary Efren Reyes, and even comes from the same hometown as Reyes, has reached his best effort at a world championship this week in Doha.
Ko’s younger brother Ping Chung had a heart stopping day as he first squeaked by Lithuanian Pijus Labutis, 11 – 10, then outlasted Polish veteran Radislaw Babica, 11-9.
The Philippines’ Carlo Biado and Jeffrey Ignacio will square off in an all-Pinoy final 16 match. This is an intriguing matchup as the 34 year old Biado is the veteran in the group who’s been knocking on the door of big time success for three years, while the 25 year Ignacio has wowed Filipino fans with his awesome talent, but has yet to produce long term success. Biado will certainly come in as the favorite, as several months back he won a gold medal in the World Games and seems to have finally picked up a knack for closing out big matches.
A massive surprise in the final 16 is Myanmar’s Maung Maung. The 23 year old has been a revelation all week and kept up the superb play under immense pressure today. In the round of 32, the Philippines’ Jeffrey De Luna threw everything he could at Maung, but Maung never flinched and closed out the match nicely, 11-9.
Venezuelan-Jordanian Jalal Yousef is very well known on the pro circuit. Yousef is enjoying his best ever success this week in Doha. After his second straight win today, Yousef revealed that he came to Doha brimming with confidence.
“I’m playing good,” Youself said. “I’m breaking good. I was in the States for two months I played in a lot of tournaments. Ten days ago I played in a tournament in Dubai I played really good. I’ve been practicing a lot and I’m playing good and I’m excited to play. I feel like I’m in shape. I’m playing my best game right now. I hope I can keep it up.”
Yousef will match wits with China’s Dang Jinhu, another hard-nosed player who plays under the radar. Chinese veteran Liu Haitao joins Dang in the final 16. Today Liu barely escaped the round of 32 with an 11-10 win over Spain’s Francisco Sanchez Ruiz.
Despite the plethora of upstarts, veterans and current and former world champions in the final 16, fans in Doha and around the world can’t help but keep turning their attentions to the two young superstars remaining in the field; Germany’s 20 year old Joshua Filler, and Albania’s 18 year old Klenti Kaci.
Filler continued to cruise at his usual lightning pace in two matches today, seemingly playing without a care in the world, shooting lights-out pool, and keeping that determined look that speaks of a champion in the making.
In terms of styles, Kaci is the polar opposite of Filler; clinical, methodical and deliberate. But the Albanian seems absolutely impervious to pressure and exudes pool playing class at all times during a match. Nobody would be surprised if Kaci found himself raising the trophy come Thursday evening.
Kaci, however, will have his hands full against Canadian John Morra, whose confidence seems to be soaring. Morra first turned back world number one Chang Jun Lin, 11-9, then beat Russia’s Konstantin Stepanov by the same score line to advance.
The final 16 and quarter finals will take place on Wednesday, December 13. The round of 16 begins at 10am Doha time(GMT +3), while the quarterfinals begins at 2pm. All matches will be race to 11, alternate break.
Final 16 December 12, 2017 10am Doha(GMT +3)
Race to 11, Alternate Break
Albin Ouschan(AUT) vs. Wu Kun Lin(TPE)
Thorsten Hohmann(GER) vs. Hsieh Chia Chen(TPE)
Carlo Biado(PHI) vs. Jeffrey Ignacio(PHI)
Liu Haitao(CHN) vs. Ko Ping Chung(TPE)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) vs. Roland Garcia(PHI)
Jalal Al Sarisi(Yousef)(VEN) vs. Dang Jinhu(CHN)
Maung Maung(MYR) vs. Joshua Filler(GER)
Klenti Kaci(ALB) vs. John Morra(CAN)
Results Final 64
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 11 – 6 Abdullah Alyusef(KUW)
Woo Seung Ryu(KOR) 11 – 10 Samuel Santos(POR)
Warren Kiamco(PHI) 11 – 4 Kong Dejing(CHN)
Wu Kun Lin(TPE) 11 – 4 Hiroshi Takenaka(JPN)
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