Rejuvenated Pagulayan Still Going at World 10-Ball Championship

Alex Pagulayan

One of the biggest surprises of this year’s WPA Men’s World 10-Ball Championship has been the resurgence of Filipino Alex Pagulayan.

After using a powerful break to easily defeat reigning Alfa Las Vegas Open champion Wiktor Zielinski in his first-round match Tuesday morning, the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer then bested Peru’s Gerson Martinez Boza the following day, 8-5. Thursday morning, the former World 9-Ball champion punched his ticket to the single-elimination final 32 portion of the event, gutting out another 8-5 victory over Petri Makkonen of Finland at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

So what’s with this newly-energized Pagulayan, who opened his year with third-place finishes in both the 9-ball and Master of the Table competition at the Derby City Classic then added on a 17th place finish in the 256-competitor World Pool Championship in Poland. Well, for once thing, he’s launched a new brand that is marketing merchandise, instruction and video content to fans and customers. And by re-engaging with the consumer through the game, he’s renewed his vigor and passion for the game.

“Lately, I just want to want to be me, and I’ve enjoyed how I’ve been hitting the balls,” said Pagulayan. “I don’t want to say that I’m confident but I’m feeling comfortable.”

Joining Pagulayan in the final 32 from the undefeated side is former World Pool champion Shane Van Boening, who again needed another Houdini imitation to get past Mark Bijsterbosch of the Netherlands, 8-6. After the two competitors split the first 10 games, Van Boening had a chance to break the tie in the 11th game but missed a bank of the 2 ball. Bijsterbosch took the lead but scratched on the break in the very next game, allowing the American to tie the match, then close out the set with back-to-back breaks and runs.

Other notables qualifying from the winner’s side of the bracket include Germany’s Joshua Filler, who cruised by Yukio Akagariyama of Japan, 8-3, 2021 Diamond Las Vegas Open winner Wu Kun Lin of Chinese Taipei, who defeated Alex Montpellier of France, 8-4, and 2020 Diamond Las Vegas Open champion Jung-Lin Chang, who took advantage of a missed 10 ball by Mario He in the deciding rack to win, 8-7.

On the one-loss side, reigning World Pool champion Francisco Sanchez Ruiz began his day by being sent to the one loss side with a 8-3 loss to Filipino Lee Van Corteza. Waiting for the Spaniard in the next round was Jesus Atencio of Venezuela, a player who had orchestrated one of the most miraculous comebacks of the event in his previous round match against former World 10-Ball champion Ko Pin Yi.

Ko had taken advantage of a couple of missed shots by his opponent to win six of the first seven racks and was working his way through the eighth rack with a chance to increase his lead to a nearly insurmountable 7-1, when the 33-year-old from Chinese Taipei missed a cut shot on the 7 ball. Atencio used the miss to return to the table and basically never leave, winning seven of the last eight— including five in a row to tie the match — to snatch the win, 8-7.

With a chance to reach the single-elimination stage on the line, Atencio wouldn’t have nearly as good a fortune against the Spaniard, who jumped out to 4–1 advantage and cruised to an 8-2 win.

Other notable qualifiers from the one-loss side of the bracket include 2021 World 10-Ball champion Eklent Kaci of Albania, who rebounded from a defeat at the hands of Ko Ping-Chung to defeat Satriadi Feri of Indonesia, 8-5, and Cliff Castelein, the first player ever to compete in the World 10-Ball Championship from Belgium. Oscar Dominguez, a member of last year’s United States Mosconi Cup team, became the second American to qualify for the single-elimination phase when he defeated Radoslaw Babica of Poland, 8-3.

Meanwhile, Juszczyszyn match had a bit more drama. Trailing Skyler Woodward, 7-5, he was watching as the American worked his way through what could have been the match-ending rack when his opponent left the 4 ball in the corner pocket’s jaws. The Pole cleared the table, broke and ran to tie the match and used a snug safety on the 1 ball to force a foul. With ball-in-hand, he had a chance to close out the set but missed the 8 ball in the corner pocket. The good news for Juszczyszyn was that Woodward got up from his chair and missed the same ball in the opposite corner, allowing the Pole to finish off the match anyways, 8-7.

Speaking of Poland, the country has been producing top talent in pool for the last half-decade so it should not be a surprise that the eastern European nation has the most competitors remaining in the tournament with four – Juszczyszyn, Mieszko Fortunski, Mateusz Sniegocki and Szymon Kural. Fortunski reached the single-elimination stage by taking down Mika Immonen of Finland on the one-loss side, 8-2, while Sniegocki and Kural qualified from the winner’s side of the bracket – as Sniegocki breezed by Reuben Batista 8-2 and Kural defeated Talal Alblooshi of the United Arab Emirates by the same score.
Friday is expected to be tension-filled and action packed as the format not only switches from double elimination to single elimination, but the length of the matches increases from a race-to-eight to a race-to-10 while 32 competitors jockey for the four slots open for Saturday’s semifinals. The action begins at 11 a.m. local time with notable matches including Van Boening rematching with Bijsterbosch, Sanchez Ruiz taking on Pagulayan and former World 9-Ball champion Fedor Gorst taking on Alfa Las Vegas semifinalist Duong Quoc Hoang.

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