Reyes-Immonen Showdown Looms

Efren Reyes/Mika Immonen

A classic individual showdown between two former World Pool Champions Efren “Bata” Reyes and Mika Immonen looms while an epic team battle is also shaping up in the Philippines-Europe 9-Ball tournament which entered its third day at the ABS-CBN Studios in Quezon City,Friday.

Reyes who won the World Pool Championship at Cardiff in 1999 and Immonen who won the title two years later remained unbeaten going into their first meeting which was scheduled for 7:00 p.m. yesterday. Even the battle for the trophy to be awarded to the winning team was delicately poised as the Filipinos came charging back on day two with Warren Kiamco easily beating Sweden's Marcus Chamat 7-2 and Antonio Lining winning by an identical 7-2 margin over the Netherlands Niels Feijen to tie the Europeans at 6-6 after being down 1-3 on opening day.

The European team is composed of four players that helped Europe regain the coveted Mosconi Cup by beating the strong United States team last December including this year's Billiards Congress of America 9-Ball Open champion Ralf “The Kaiser” Souquet who was last year's International Billiards Congress “Player of the Year.”

Souquet fell prey to the magical touch of Reyes 7-5 while Immonen, who is playing with supreme confidence behind a solid break, great positional play and excellent pocketing whipped last year's World Pool Championship runner-up Francisco “Django” Bustamante who appeared to be still recovering from a bout with the flu.

Based on current form Immonen is regarded as favorite to win the $15,000 top prize despite the emotional support for Reyes by the hometown fans. Both players have clinched a spot in the semi finals with Souquet set to play Bustamante in a crucial match for both players. Bustamante needs to win to have a chance to join Reyes in the semi finals otherwise he could lose out to either Lining to plays Chamat who hasn't won a match upto now or Kiamco who meets Feijen. All three Filipinos are tied with one win apiece. Souquet needs to win to stave off a possible challenge by Feijen.

Under the format, the crossover semi finals will see the top Filipino play the No.2 European with the No. 2 Filipino meeting the top European at the end of the elimination round which is a race to seven, alternate break format where each Filipino plays each European once.

The tournament in the Philippines, a hotbed of pool in Asia, is regarded as an excellent tune-up for the World Pool Championship which opens in Cardiff on July 12, the same day that Reyes will be inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame, forcing Reyes to have to miss the prestigious affair. Both Reyes and Immonen appear to have benefited from the tournament with Immonen in particular moving around the table with supreme confidence and wasting no time in going for his shots which is typical of players like Reyes, Bustamante and last year's Cardiff champion Earl "The Pearl" Strickland.

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Sport