Russia is First Team Through at World Cup of Pool

Ruslan Chinakhov and Nigel Rees look on as Konstantin Stepanov shoots

PLAY got underway at the fifth annual World Cup of Pool at Robinsons Place Mall in Ermita, Manila as 64 of the best players on the planet gathered to do battle for the $250,000 prize fund.

All first round matches are race to eight, winners break and the Russian pair of Ruslan Chinakhov and Konstantin Stepanov, making their fourth appearance together in this event, recorded an outstanding come-from-behind win to eliminate Canada from the competition.

The Canadians – Jason Klatt and John Morra – had looked solid in the early stages as they raced into a 4-0 lead. A mistake from Klatt though, as he missed a banked five ball onto the centre pocket, allowed the Russians to take their first rack of the match and the comeback was on.

They took the next two to get to 3-4 before Klatt suffered the misfortune of having a foul called on him by referee Nigel Rees when his shirt touched a ball whilst cueing. Russia didn’t hesitate and squared the match at 4-4.

It was the turning point in the game, as Canada failed to stem the Russian tide as Stepanov and Chinakhov won the next four racks to ease themselves into the last 16.

‘We were so nervous at the beginning and they played well. But we were just waiting for a mistake, they made one and we took two racks,’ said Stepanov after the match.

“We gave them the play again but they didn’t take it and made a stupid foul (when Klatt’s shirt touched a ball) and that was the main moment of the match.

‘We could play Germany and that will be a really tough match if they beat Hong Kong. The German team is really special and Ralf is a brilliant team player. But their relationship is not perfect and I don’t know how comfortable they feel so we will see what happens,’ he added.

India will rue the missed opportunities as they blew leads of 5-0 and 6-2 in the second match of the first session, to get dumped out of the competition 7-8 at the hands of Indonesia.

The Indonesian pair of Muhammad Zulfikri and Ricky Yang looked out of sorts in the early stages as Raj Hundal and Dharminder Singh Lilly got the better of the exchanges as their confidence grew.

At 5-0 to the good, the Indians looked in full control of proceedings but Indonesia took the next two before wasting chances in the ninth game and India moved into a great 6-2 lead.

Mistakes came from both sides but the Indonesian’s who looked dead and buried earlier appear to be in the ascendancy as they steal four racks on the spin to level the match at 6-6 and leave their opponents reeling.

A scratch from Zulfikri gave India the chance they were looking for and they moved to the hill and broke for the match. A poor safety from Lilly though left the ball on for Indonesia and that enabled them to level the match at 7-7.

India still had a chance but Hundal ran out of position going from 7 to 8 and Lilly’s bank shot fails and leaves the 8 ball hanging over the pocket to hand victory to Yang and Zulfikri.

With 32 teams representing 31 countries – home nation Philippines has two sides in the competition – the World Cup of Pool sees the gathering of some of the most decorated stars of the pool firmament.

With a total purse of $250,000, the winning pair split $60,000 between them while first round losers are guaranteed $1,500 each. All the action will be carried live on Solar Sports in The Philippines and other broadcasters across the region.