Fisher, going undefeated, wins third straight WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge
Skip Maloney - AzB Staff
Jun. 29, 2020
Kelly Fisher (Erwin Dionisio)
The Dragon Boat Festival may have been in progress in Taiwan during the event, but the ‘beast’ on display at the WPBA’s third Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge (June 21-June 26) was the UK’s Kelly Fisher. As they’d done in the second Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge (June 1-6), Fisher and Taiwan’s Wei Tzu-Chien met in the finals of this one and for the third straight time, Fisher emerged as the event champion. Fisher had to win five on the loss side to face her in the finals of the previous event, but this time, she and Tzu-Chien battled twice; once, vying for the hot seat and then, in the finals. Fisher won both times, chalking up the second- and third-highest scores of the event (126, 125) while Tzu-Chien chalked up the event’s highest score (130) in the semifinals.
 
As the two played in the hot seat match on Thursday (June 25), Tzu-Chien was reportedly dealing with a highly distracting scenario in Taiwan, which was celebrating its annual Dragon Boat Festival, featuring all sorts of costumed mythical beasts and spectators having a grand time in the local bars. While the camera focused on the table showed no evidence of the gathered crowd, Tzu-Chien was competing in the midst of a lot of distractions. Fisher, not to be outdone in the distraction department, was playing in an un-air-conditioned room, where the temperature was hovering just above the 80s; a circumstance that played itself out on her brow occasionally. 
 
As with previous events, each rack bore the potential for a player to earn either 10 points (for a runout with ball-in-hand after the break) or 15 points (for a runout played without ball-in-hand after the break). A miss in a rack would score the number of balls pocketed prior to the miss. All matches, until the finals, featured 10 racks. Until the semifinals, Fisher was the only player among the event’s 16, to score over 100 points for a single rack. There were 24 total matches played and only six scores over 100; four of them by Fisher and two by Tzu-Chien. Prior to the finals, Fisher averaged 109.75 points per 10 racks. Tzu-Chien, who was awarded a bye in the opening round, reached the semifinals with an average of 88.6 points per rack, but upped that percentage to 99, when she scored 130 points in those semifinals.
 
Fisher’s path to the hot seat went through LaLe 111-19, Dawn Hopkins 90-81 and in a winners’ side semifinal, Monica Webb 113-98. After her opening round bye, Tzu-Chien defeated Mary Rakin Tam 97-93 and then, in their first of two, she downed Jennifer Barretta 88-76, in the other winners’ side semifinal. Fisher claimed the hot seat with what was, at the time, the event’s highest score 125-81. She ran all 10 racks; five of them with ball-in-hand after the break and five, including the last two, without.
 
On the loss side, Baretta picked up Hopkins, who, after her defeat at the hands of Fisher in the second round, had defeated Kia Burwell 53-47 and Kris Bacon 75-26. Monica Webb drew event director Angela Janic, who’d been sent to the loss side by Baretta in the second round, and had gone on to eliminate Cheryl Baglin 53-26 and Mary Rakin Tam 67-64.
 
Baretta, who still sits atop the WPBA’s year-to-date seeding and ranking list (where Wei-Tzu Chien is #3 and Kelly Fisher is #5), defeated Hopkins 87-57, as Webb was busy eliminating Janic 89-48. Baretta and Webb locked up in a nail-biting quarterfinal that eventually sent Baretta (96-93) to the semifinals against Tzu-Chien.
 
Tzu-Chien found some kind of second, or possibly third gear in those semifinals. She went on to score what would prove to be the event’s highest single score, downing Baretta 130-27 for a second and (including the previous event) third shot against Fisher.
 
To no avail as it turned out. Together, they chalked up the event’s second and fourth highest score; Fisher checking in with her fourth 100-plus score and the event’s second highest, downing Tzu-Chien 126-103. Fisher ran 10 racks of the 13 in the final, seven of them with ball-in-hand after the break and three, without. Unlike their previous match in the finals of the second event, Wei Tzu-Chien actually finished ahead of Fisher (generally known as “Kwikfire”) in the finals of this one.
 
“You were faster than me,” Fisher said, chatting after the match. “How come?”
 
“Because you’re slow,” said Tzu-Chien.
 
“Slowfire,” commented Fisher.
 
“You did it again,” said event director, Angela Janic, congratulating Fisher after the finals. “There’s no question that you dominate this format. This thing is made for you.”
 
“That’s because I’m not any good at safety play, or getting out, or kicking,” said Fisher with a laugh.
 
The WPBA’s 4th Virtual 9-ball Ghost Challenge will take place July 19-23 and be followed on the weekend of July 31-August 2 with a Tournament of Champions, featuring the top eight players from the four events.
 
The WPBA thanked all of its fans for watching and supporting this event over the past week, its tournament director, Angela Janic, its behind-the-scenes technical guru Jennifer Hamilton (who celebrated her birthday on the day of this event’s final), its players, scorekeepers and guest commentators.
 
Event Payouts:
Kelly Fisher $525
Wei Tzu-Chien $305
Jennifer Barretta $190
Monica Webb $120