Szolnoki bests Josh Filler in second set of true double final to win Diamond Open 9-Ball

Oliver Szolnoki (File photo courtesy Matchroom Pool)

‘Oliver’ who?

Szolnoki is the man’s last name. He’s from Hungary and while he’s not the household name that his last two opponents (Shane Van Boening and Josh Filler) have become here in the US, he did work his way through the 128-entrant field of the inaugural $10,000-added Omega Diamond Open 9-Ball tournament at The Rack and Grill III in Aiken, SC this past weekend (Oct. 2-3) to claim that event’s 1st title. 

Though relatively unknown here, Szolnoki has been a force to be reckoned with in Europe since he first appeared in our database in October, 2017, after placing 33rd in a Dynamic Klagenfurt Open in Austria. He kept plugging away on the EuroTour and independent events until this year, which (according to available records) has seen him rake in just shy of four times more cash than in any other previous year. His biggest win, financially, proved to be his third-place finish (tied with David Alcaide) at the World Pool Championships in England this past June. Won by Albin Ouschan, that event featured more than just a few of the competitors who were on hand in Aiken, SC this past weekend; Sky Woodward, Mieszko Fortunski, Naoyuki Oi, Roberto Gomez and Shane Van Boening. When Szolnoki and Van Boening met in the hot seat match this past weekend, Van Boening was keenly aware of their meeting in England four months ago, when Szolnoki came from 5-1 down in a final-16 matchup to win 11 straight and eliminate Van Boening from the event. 

And Szolnoki’s win in South Carolina was not just the ‘luck of the (bracket) draw’ either, although at the Open/Pro level, it’s hard to ever make that argument convincingly. He survived two straight double hill matches against Abdullah Alshammari and Mario He and in one of the winners’ side quarterfinals, he won his third double hill match against last month’s runner-up at the US Open Pool Championships in Atlantic City, Aloysius Yapp. That put him into a winners’ side semifinal against Greece’s Alex Kazakis.

The eventual runner-up, Josh Filler, had lost his opening round match to Roland Garcia 7-4 and was already working on the 12-match, loss-side winning streak that would give him a shot against Szolnoki in the finals. Van Boening, in the meantime, had sent Jesse Link, Levi Taylor, Jeffrey DeLuna, Garcia, and Mieszko Fortunski to the loss side to face Naoyuki Oi in his winners’ side semifinal.

Szolnoki earned his place at the hot seat table with a 7-5 win over Kazakis. Van Boening joined him sending Oi west by the same score. Szolnoki put another 7-5 win in the books to claim the hot seat over Van Boening and waited on fellow Euroman, Josh Filler to finish his lengthy loss-side run.

On the loss side, Filler opened up against John Francisco, whom he defeated 7-2. In the second loss-side round, he met and defeated Landon Hollingsworth 7-1.

Hollingsworth, who won two separate divisions of the BEF Junior National Championships this past July in Las Vegas and will be competing at the International Open later this month, was preparing (warming up?) for a trip to Austria to represent the US in the World Junior Nationals (he left today, Tuesday, Oct. 5). What is striking about his appearance in the weekend’s Omega Diamond Open’s 9-Ball event was not that he lost to Filler on the loss side, which surprised no one (least of all, him), but who he defeated on the winners’ side in his opening match. Normally lost in a narrative that by necessity condenses match results down to a manageable number, any opening round match, not won or lost by one of the final five or six standing would not generally find its way into a basic report on an event. That said, Hollingsworth earned his way into the narrative, by virtue of his opening round, double hill victory over Sky Woodward, a junior competitor himself, not so long ago. The win occasioned a surprised, “yeah, can you believe it?’ chuckle from him on Sunday afternoon, as he spoke briefly about his expectations and the general excitement of preparing for his first trip overseas. Hollingsworth is our Junior Player of the Month, profiled in the October edition of Billiard’s Buzz.

We and Joshua Filler move on. He downed Mickey Krause, Richard Kolgore (double hill) and happily accepted a forfeit win from his wife, Pia. Subsequent wins over Scott Frost, John Morra and Mieszko Fortunski brought Filler to Jeffrey DeLuna, whom he shutout to draw Kazakis, just over from his winners’ side loss to Szolnoki. Naoyuki Oi picked up Yapp, who, following his loss to Szolnoki, had eliminated Fedor Gorst and Eklent Kaci.

Yapp defeated Oi 7-1 and, in the quarterfinals met Filler, who’d downed Kazakis 7-1. Filler then sent Yapp home (so to speak) 7-1 and shortly thereafter, in the semifinals, Van Boening 7-5. 

The waiting seemed to have cooled Szolnoki down a bit, as Filler stepped in and took the opening set of the true double elimination final 7-2. Szolnoki rallied in the second set, fighting tooth and nail (which, by the way, means “with the use of one’s teeth and nails as weapons, biting and scratching”). They fought back and forth to double hill before Szolnoki dropped the last 9-ball to claim the title and arguably end further usage of the ‘Oliver who?’ question.