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Round One of Pat Fleming’s International Open 9-Ball Tournament in the books

Some expected and not-so expected advances highlight Day One of the 128-entrant 9-ball event  

Surprises?

At the level of talent on display at this week’s (Oct. 28-Nov. 5) International Open in Norfolk, VA, it’s hard to single out any one match in the event’s opening round of play and call the result a surprise. One’s reaction to a given result will depend largely on an individual’s perception of the players involved and their own sense of how a match between them would play out. This, in turn, might reveal more about the person being surprised (or not) than it might about the match result.

As a random example from the International Open’s first event of the week, the $10,000-added One Pocket tournament won by T-Rex (Tony Chohan; see story elsewhere in our News). If you haven’t already seen the results, imagine the semifinal match between Sky Woodward and Fedor Gorst, won by Woodward. Surprised? 

Round one of the Open’s $50,000-added, 128-entrant 9-Ball tournament is over. We offer a short and not comprehensive list of matches from the round, and without looking it up through our links to the bracket, pick a winner, find the result and then determine whether it’s a surprise to you. An indication (J) identifies the player as a junior competitor. Results at the end of the report.

Tapei’s Hsieh Chia-Chen vs. Switzerland’s Dimitri Jungo (winner of last week’s American Straight Pool Championships in Virginia Beach)? Jesus Atencio vs. (J) Kashton Keeton? Earl Strickland vs. Taipei’s Hsuan Wei Kuo? Brandon Shuff vs. Russia’s Kristina Tkach, crowned as the Women’s 2022 Straight Pool Champion last week in Virginia Beach? Hunter Lombardo vs. Shane Wolford? BJ Ussery, Jr. vs. Chris Rienhold? Corey Deuel vs. Sharik Sayed? Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski (semifinalist at the Straight Pool Championships) vs. Matt Krah? Vietnam’s Brian Vu vs. (J) Payne McBride? Justin Martin vs. Lukas Fracasso-Verner (former J)? 

Among those whose victories in the opening round were not likely have been a surprise to anybody were: Jayson Shaw’s win over John Francisco, Spain’s David Alcaide (the last piece added to Europe’s Mosconi Cup team puzzle), who defeated USA’s Sullivan Clark 10-6, Sky Woodward’s victory (albeit, double-hill victory) over Italy’s Francesco Candela, Fedor Gorst’s win over Curucao’s Bryan Farah 10-7 and Joshua Filler’s shutout victory over USA’s Christopher Pyle. There are, of course, others who have advanced on the winners’ side, which, for purposes of brevity, we’ll restrict to those not listed above who are among the top 10 in our Money Leaderboard: Spain’s Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz, Greece’s Alex Kazakis, Austria’s Albin Ouschan and the Philippines’ Roberto Gomez.

Among the key matchups highlighting Round Two today (Tuesday, Nov. 1) will be 6 p.m. battles between Alex Kazakis and veteran US competitor Raymond Linares, junior competitor Joey Tate’s matchup against Kuwait’s Abdullah Alyousef, Sanchez-Ruiz versus Justin Martin,  Roberto Gomez against Alex Pagulayan and junior competitor Payne McBride taking on Straight Pool Championship runner-up, Mieszko Fortunski. At 8 p.m., Albin Oushcan will take on Thorsten Hohmann, David Alcaide faces Josh Roberts, Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes will go up against Taipei’s Ko Pin Yi, and the winner of the Strickland/Hsuan Wei Kuo match (revealed below) versus Taipei’s Hsieh Chia-Chen (all 8 p.m.). At 10 p.m., Round Two’s winners’ bracket will continue with Tony Chohan against last week’s Straight Pool Championship runner-up Wiktor Zielinski, Jayson Shaw will meet the winner of the Shuff/Tkach match (revealed below), Ralf Souquet will go up against BJ Ussery, Alex Pagulayan will take on Roberto Gomez and Sanchez-Ruiz will battle Justin Martin. 

(‘Surprise?’ results from above: Junior competitor Kashton Keeton defeated Jesus Atencio 10-6,  Strickland got by Wei Kuo 10-5, Taipei’s Chia-Chen sent Dimitri Jungo to the loss side 10-7, Shuff beat Tkach 10-8, Lombardo over Wolford 10-6. Ussery over Reinhold 10-9, Sayed downs Deuel 10-6, Fortunski gets by Krah 10-7, Junior competitor Payne McBride defeats Brian Vu 10-2 and Justin Martin moves on with a double hill win over Lukas Fracasso-Verner.) 

Fans can watch not only the featured table with full commentary, but also any other table at the event with the Accu-Stats PPV coverage. They can also follow all of the action online with real-time scoring and online brackets all week long.

PPV Coverage
One Pocket Stage One Online Brackets
One Pocket Stage Two Online Brackets
Big Foot 10-Ball Brackets
9-Ball Brackets
Real Time Scoring

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Gorst Tops BCA Ranking System; Van Boening Still Top American

Fedor Gorst

With the completion of last weeks Seyberts Michigan Open, the BCA ranking system continues to see players jockeying for position. 

Former #1 ranked Mika Immonen dropped one spot, swapping positions with Fedor Gorst. Aloysius Yapp’s win in the event propelled him 3 spots from #6 to #3 with Roland Garcia and Wiktor Zielinski filling in the top five place. 

#1 ranked American player, Shane Van Boening, remained in 16th place overall, but the 2nd and 3rd ranked American players swapped places with Hunter Lombardo moving into 18th place overall with fellow American Tyler Styer one spot below him in 19th place. Danny Olson and Corey Deuel fill out the top five American players. 

The BCA (Billiard Congress of America) ranking system is used to determine American invitations to WPA sanctioned International events such as the World Pool Championship, World 10-Ball Championship and World Games. 

There are four events remaining this year for players to accumulate points: 

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Park Survives and Advances in Opening Round of World Games

Eun-Ji Park

WOMEN’S POOL
Eun-ji Park 9-8 Monica Webb

South Korea’s Eunji Park fought back from an early 3-0 deficit in her round-of-16 match and defeated American Monica Webb, 9-8.

Webb had an opportunity to increase her lead in the fourth game but missed the winning 9 ball. Park climbed onto the scoreboard then won the next two to tie the match and the two players battled back-and-forth the rest of the way, with neither competitor holding more than a two-rack lead. Park climbed ahead 7-6 after Webb missed the 4 ball but the American quickly tied the score again when Park failed to pocket a ball on the break. Park pulled ahead again when she potted a successful combination shot on the 9 ball in the 15th rack but Webb was able to gut out the next game with a pair of victorious safety exchanges.

At the table with the break and a chance to win the match, Webb was unable to pocket a ball on the break and Park ran out the rack to snatch the victory.

“I feel like I played well, except for a couple of shots,” said Webb after the match. “I think she played well. She did her thing. I feel like I got a little unfortunate in that set, but with single elimination, that’s what we’re dealing with.”

Chieh-Yu Chou 9-6 Adriana Villar

Former Amway World Open champion Chieh-Yu Chou of Chinese Taipei came from behind and used an innovative jump shot to get past Costa Rica’s Adriana Villar, 9-6.

Chou jumped out to an early 3-1 advantage against Villar before the Costa Rican won four consecutive racks to build a 5-3 lead. Chou, starting to feel some pressure in championship competition, took a timeout to walk away and collect her thoughts.

“Before the timeout I felt like I was getting tense,” she said though her translator after the match. “After the time out, I relaxed and felt like I was okay.”

Villar, who struggled with her break at times, failed to maintain momentum as Chou on two of the next three to tie the match at six racks each. The player from Chinese Taipei, who was setting up the cue ball in the center of the table for break shots, regained the lead with a break and run in the 13th game to regain a 7-6 lead. After her opponent snookered her with a safety on the 2 ball, Chou jumped the cue ball over the blocking 7 ball, struck the 2 ball and watched the cue ball roll across table and pocket the game-winning 9 ball.

“I knew that was the route for the 9 ball but I know that was also lucky,” she said.

Chou then closed out the match with another break and run to eliminate Villar.  “I feel good about how I played but she’s a good player,” Villar said.

MEN’S POOL
John Morra 11-5 Hunter Lombardo

Sanjin Pehlivanovic 11-3 Omar Al-Shaheen*
*Al-Shaheen forfeited the match at 7-3

Canada’s John Morra will meet Sanjin Pehlivanovic in the Men’s Pool quarter-finals after a dominant 11-5 display against Hunter Lombardo.

Two sets of four consecutive games helped the Canadian to an 10-2 lead in the match. USA’s Lombardo, who only received the call to play this event at the end of last week, showed grit and determination in taking three games with his opponent on the hill, but the alternative break format was always going to afford Morra a chance to see out the win, and a runout in the 16th saw him complete an 11-5 win.

“I played well and was comfortable until 10-2, and then started to feel a little fatigued and made a few mistakes,” said Morra. “I broke well throughout the match, felt confident and was calm out there and comfortable with the conditions.

“I got tired towards the end of the match because I didn’t sleep too well last night. I was waiting for that opportunity to close out the match and I broke and ran out with a good shot on the 7; I wasn’t sure if it was going to drop but the pocket accepted the ball.

“I have represented Canada many times but never at this event, and it is awesome. It is an honor to be here, playing this event for the love of the game. The pure enjoyment and passion is what made me fall in love with the game and it is nice to know I still have it 20 years later.”

Despite his defeat, Lombardo was pleased to represent USA in this event and was determined to fight until the end despite a huge scoreboard deficit. “John played great. Every time he broke he seemed to run out and I broke dry a couple of times, and he capitalized when I missed a couple of balls early on.

“I hung in there and never quit; there was a time when things shifted a little bit but in the end he made a really nice out on the hill.”

Pehlivanovic, the European 10-Ball Champion, awaits Morra in the next round. The Bosnia and Herzegovina representative was 7-3 up against Kuwait’s Omar Al Shaheen when the 2021 World Championship runner-up forfeited the match.

“I understand he didn’t have his own cue,” said Pehlivanovic. “I feel bad for him because these things happen. I was happy with how I was playing and I will continue with that into the next round. The only thing is the break wasn’t quite working for me.”

One of the great aspects of The World Games is the number of other sports taking place, and Pehlivanovic was happy to find some time to take them in. “At home I do boxing for fitness, so it was incredible to watch some kick boxing yesterday; I loved it.”

The Olympic Channel is live streaming The World Games and billiards will feature on July 16 and July 17 when the finals take place. A full streaming schedule and links are at https://www.theworldgames.org/pages/twg2022streaming. The match schedule, results, and live scores are at esnooker.pl

Follow @wcbsbilliards on social media for full coverage of the billiards program from our team in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Appleton Advances While Shaw Stunned on Day Two of Alfa Las Vegas Open

Darren Appleton

Of all of the vacation and convention destinations in the world, Las Vegas usually isn’t particularly kind to most of its visitors.

After all, most of the city’s legendary and luxurious casinos certainly aren’t able to stay open because visitors keep breaking them with big jackpots. “The house always wins,” as the saying goes.

But the city has been particularly unlucky as of late for Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Darren Appleton, who was winless in his two previous visits to Vegas, posting back-to-back two-and-outs before heading home.

Competing in the fourth annual Alfa Las Vegas Open this weekend, it appears his luck might be starting to change. Appleton survived back-to-back shootouts – including a sudden-death thriller against reigning United States Open Pool champion Carlo Biado – to remain unbeaten in the four-day, 192-player tournament being held at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.

After an opening round bye and a 4-3 sudden death win against Duong Quoc Hoang, Appleton reached the third round where he faced off against Biado, who drew first blood when his opponent scratched on the break in the opening rack. The Hall of Famer tied the score when the Filipino failed to pocket a ball on the break in the next rack, then rattled off three more wins to seal the set, 4-1.

The following frame was practically a photo negative, as Biado capitalized on two openings left by his opponent to an early 2-0 lead before Appleton narrowed the deficit with a successful combination shot on the 10 ball in the third game. Appleton appeared to tie the set at two games each when he pocketed the 10 ball again on a combination shot, but he failed to call the 10 ball to be pocketed. What looked like a tied set resulted in Appleton essentially playing a safety on himself when the 10 ball was re-spotted, with the cue ball’s path to the 1 ball now blocked. After Appleton scratched during a safety exchange, Biado cleared the table and then added another rack to close out the set, 4-1.

After each player missed a ball in the first two innings of the shootout, both competitors executed back-to-back shots to send the set into sudden death. With the cue ball now moved back a diamond, Appleton again made back-to-back shots while Biado missed his attempt in the seventh inning to hand his opponent the victory.

Appleton will now face Pin-Yi Ko in the next round, who needed a shootout of his own to defeat Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski.

Hours earlier, Appleton’s friend and reigning Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player Jayson Shaw wasn’t as fortunate.

Facing Dimitri Jungo of Switzerland, the two competitors battled throughout the first set, with Jungo taking an early 2-0 advantage after his opponent left openings in back-to-back games. Shaw snagged a pair of games to tie the score thanks to a successful combination shot on the 10 ball in the third rack and a Jungo miss in the next game, but handed the table back to his opponent when he scratched in the fifth game. Jungo had an opportunity to close out the set but failed to pocket a ball on the break in the sixth game, as Shaw won back-to-back racks to seal the victory, 4-3.

The Scotsman climbed onto the scoreboard first in the second set when his opponent scratched, but Jungo would claim the next two games thanks to an unforced error by his opponent and a successful carom shot on the 10 ball in the third rack. Shaw tied the score in the fourth game after his opponent missed the 10 ball, but a missed 3 ball in the following game would relinquish the table to Jungo for the remainder of the set, as he cleared the table and then broke-and-ran to secure the set, 4-2, and send the match to a sudden death shootout.

After both competitors pocketed their opening shot of the extra frame, Shaw missed on his second attempt. Meanwhile, Jungo remained perfect throughout the deciding set, successfully executing four straight shots to pull off the upset.

In other notable matches that took place, Poland’s Wojciech Szewczyk fought back from an opening round 4-1 loss to Mika Immonen to claim the second set, 4-2, and beat the Hall of Famer in a shootout, 3-1. Spain’s Jonas Souto, who upset Shane Van Boening the day before, continued his hot play with a straight sets victory against Daniel Schneider, 4-1, 4-3. Poland’s Wiktor Zielinski defeated fellow countryman Konrad Juszczyszyn in straight sets, 4-1, 4-1 and Alex Montpellier took down Ping Han Ko in a shootout, 3-2.

Play resumes Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. local time with notable matches including Corey Deuel facing Juszczyszyn, Shane Wolford meeting Oscar Dominguez and Hunter Lombardo meeting Chris Reinhold in one-loss side matches.

Matches can be watched on Billiard.TV and also on World Billiard TV, the official YouTube channel of CueSports International.

The Alfa Las Vegas Open takes place March 23-26. The Alfa Las Vegas Open is followed by the Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which runs March 28-April 1 and The Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, which runs March 30-April 2.

The events coincide with the CueSports International Expo, which brings thousands of amateur pool players for the BCA Pool League World Championships as well as the USA Pool League National Championships.

Find the Alfa Las Vegas Open brackets with live scores on the Predator Pro Billiard Series website.

The Alfa Las Vegas Open is streamed for free on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.
Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device
Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the next events.

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American Players Absent from BCA Points List Top 15

For over ten years, the Billiard Congress of America has used the BCA ranking system to rank players and to use a fair and transparent system for determining which American players get invited to WPA sanctioned international events such as: the World Pool Championship, the World 10-Ball Championship and the 2022 The World Games.

For players to get points in the BCA ranking system they must play in BCA ranking events. These events include: The Turning Stone Classic, Derby City Classic, US Open, US International Open, the Predator Pro Series events, and the American 14.1. Each event is then weighed and adjusted based on field size, purse total and how many top 20 players competed in the event.

The BCA ranking system does allow for a player to miss or drop one tournament within the calendar year without that player being penalized as this system is a rolling points list based on the last eight professional ranking events.

With the recent lack of participation by some of the bigger American names in professional pool, they have understandably started dropping in the BCA rankings.

After the most recent BCA ranking event, the Predator US Pro Billiard Series in Wisconsin, the BCA updated their rankings accordingly and while there is the usual shift in players moving up and down the list, the biggest story is not in who went up the list, but more about who fell down it.

Shane Van Boening, still the top ranked American player, but formerly ranked 10th on the list, has now fallen completely out of the top 15. Before the Wisconsin tournament, Van Boening was the sole American in the top 15 but now with the updated and current rankings, this is the first time in over a decade that not only has Van Boening not been in the top 15, but no American player was ranked in the top 15.

Joining Van Boening in falling out of the top 15 were Naoyuki Oi and Jayson Shaw. With these three players falling out of the top fifteen, the list now welcomes Alex Kazakis, Bader Al Awadi and Roberto Gomez to the top 15.

Remaining in the top spot is Fedor Gorst. Mika Immonen is in a distant 2nd with a 124 point difference between him and Gorst. Immonen had been ranked 3rd on the list, but climbed one spot into 2nd after the Wisconsin tournament and Denis Grabe is also climbing up from 5th to 3rd.

As far as American players on the list, Van Boening currently sits in 18th place, less than 30 points ahead of Tyler Styer and Hunter Lombardo, who are now the 2nd and 3rd top ranked Americans, according to the BCA Rankings.

The next tournament to be BCA Ranking Event in 2022 will be the Predator Pro Series’ Alfa Las Vegas Open that takes place on March 22nd – 26th. Hopefully, we will start to see more participation from our top Americans players at this event and hopefully they can regain their status on the BCA Points List.

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Ouschan Ousted on Second Day of Apex Wisconsin Open

Jasmin Ouschan

It’s been a while since World Champion Jasmin Ouschan has competed in the United States.

Having fewer professional women’s events domestically than what were available years ago doesn’t lend itself to traveling to America frequently. Mix in a pandemic and a newly developed second career as a dancing television celebrity in her native Austria and it doesn’t help matters. Total it all up and the last time Ouschan played in the U.S. prior to this week’s Apex Wisconsin Open was the 2019 Women’s Professional Billiards Association Masters, where she placed fifth.

After her two matches on Thursday, she might be wishing she had waited even longer to return. The multiple-time European champion started her day undefeated after a straight set victory over Zach Bos in the opening round. By the end of the evening, she was reduced to a spectator, having suffered back-to-back grueling losses to Denis Grabe of Estonia and Joven Bustamante at the Ho-Chunk Resort and Casino in the Wisconsin Dells.

The Austrian got off to a hot start against Grabe in the opening match, jumping out to a quick lead after pocketing the 10 ball on the break in the first rack of the set. Things quickly unraveled, with Ouschan failing to pocket a ball on the break in the next rack and Grabe taking advantage by winning the next two games. The Austrian had another opportunity as she worked her way through the fourth rack after Grabe broke dry but she missed a routine shot on the game-winning 10 ball. The young man from Estonia then finished off the set, 4-1, after Ouschan scratched while kicking at the 3 ball in the fifth rack.

Grabe used a pocketed 10 ball on the break of his own and victorious safety exchange to build an early 2-0 advantage of the second set, but Ouschan climbed onto the scoreboard when her opponent committed a foul in the third rack. After tying the score 2-2, she used a carom shot involving the 5 and 10 balls to take the lead then used a missed 3 ball by Grabe in the next game to close out the set, 4-2.

After both competitors pocketed their first four shots in the overtime shootout, the cue ball was moved back a diamond and the format switched to sudden death. Grabe made the first shot while Ouschan missed, handing the Estonian the win and moving over to the one-loss side.

Later in the day, Ouschan squared off against Filipino Joven Bustamante, where the two split the first six racks of the first set. Bustamante broke in the set-deciding seventh rack, then played safe and appeared to be in position to run out the rack after a brief exchange – until he missed the 5 ball in the side pocket. Ouschan jumped the 6 ball to pocket the 5, then ran the remaining balls to survive the set, 4-3.
The Filipino jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage in the next set thanks to a combination shot after a dry break from Ouschan in the opening rack and a break-and-run in the following game. The Austrian cut the deficit to 2-1 after a victorious safety exchange in the third rack led to a combination shot on the 10-ball but Bustamante climbed onto the hill in the next rack when Ouschan again failed to pocket a ball on the break. Ouschan used victorious safety exchanges to gut out the next two games and tie the set and appeared to be in position to clinch the set after Bustamante left an opening after another misplayed safety. After pocketing the 8 ball in the corner pocket, she was left with a long straight shot on the 9 ball which Ouschan missed. Bustamante cleared the table to send the match to shootout, which he won 6-5.

In other notable matches, Jeremy Seaman used three pocketed 10 balls on the break to defeat former World 9-Ball champion Thorsten Hohmann in straight sets, 4-1, 4-2 on the winner’s side. South Dakotan Danny Olson took advantage of a handful of unforced errors by opponent Mario He – including a pair of missed 9 balls in the first set – and defeated the reigning Ohio Open champion in straight sets, 4-2, 4-2. Arcadia Arizona Open runner-up Roland Garcia earned a first set 4-1 victory against Robbie Capito, then watched as his opponent stormed back to claim the final set, 4-1, then won in a shootout, 3-2 to remain undefeated. Capito will now face Canadian John Morra, who needed a shootout victory of his own to squeak by American Michael Yednak.

Friday’s action begins at 11 a.m. eastern time with notable matches including Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Darren Appleton facing fellow Hall of Famer Mika Immonen in a winner’s side match and Chris Reinhold taking on Roberto Gomez Jr. on the one-loss side. Competitors will be jockeying for one of the 16 berths available in Saturday’s single-elimination phase of the event, with the remaining eight players on the winner’s and one-loss qualifying and the seeding being redrawn before play begins.

The Wisconsin Open is the second event of the year for the U.S. Pro Billiard Series and the first ever to be staged at Ho-Chunk Resort, a sprawling facility north of Madison which offers a 302-room hotel as well as spacious gaming and convention space.

Hours later, Gorst would pitch a 4-0 shutout in the first round of his match against Dimitris Loukatos, but lost the second set 4-3 and lost in a shootout to the Greek, 4-3. The Russian moves to the one-loss side of the bracket where he will play Friday morning.

England’s Darren Appleton appears to close to regaining the stroke that landed the former U.S. Open 9-Ball champion in the Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame. Facing Mickey Krause of Denmark, Appleton played nearly flawless in a straight set second round victory.

After Krause used a break-and-run and a scratch on the break by his opponent to build an early 2-1 lead, Appleton took advantage of a foul by his opponent in the fourth rack to tie set then tacked on back-to-back breaks and runs to close out a 4-2 victory. The Brit, reached the second round with a straight sets victory over Poland’s Konrad Juszczyszyn, was equally crafty in the second set, using two victorious safety exchanges and a break-and-run to build a commanding 3-0 advantage. Krause had a chance to climb onto the scoreboard after his opponent scratched on the break in the fourth game but failed to secure position on the 6 ball and missed a bank shot. Appleton executed a sharp cut on the object ball then finished off the rack to pitch a 4-0 shutout and advance to the third round of the winner’s side of the bracket.
Appleton will face fellow Hall of Famer Mika Immonen in the third round Friday at 11 a.m. eastern time.

In other matches of the day, Roland Garcia took advantage of a handful of errors by three-time Mosconi Cup member Tyler Styer to earn a 4-0, 4-2 victory and Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Immonen needed an extra frame to survive a 7-6 shootout against Michael Schneider of Switzerland.

Competition resumes Thursday morning with notable matches including Denis Grabe of Estonia taking on Jasmin Ouschan at 11 a.m. eastern time, Garcia taking on Robbie Capito at 3 p.m. and Mieszko Fortunski of Poland meeting Hunter Lombardo on the one-loss side of the bracket at 6 p.m.

The Apex Wisconsin Open is the second event of the year for the Predator U.S. Pro Billiard Series and the first ever to be staged at Ho-Chunk Resort, a sprawling facility north of Madison which offers a 302-room hotel as well as spacious gaming and convention space.

Follow the Apex Wisconsin Open draw on the Predator US Pro Billiard Series FargoRate’s dedicated page
The Apex Wisconsin Open is streamed for free all week on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.
Go to Billiard TV to watch 24/7 Billiard Videos on any device
Follow @probilliardseries on Facebook, @probilliardseries on Instagram or @PBilliardSeries on Twitter to follow the event.

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World Champions Kaci and Gorst Face Off on Opening Day of Apex Wisconsin Open

Eklent Kaci

When spectators attend a concert, they’re usually treated to an opening act or two, hired to get the crowd engaged and set the tone for the night and the event’s main attraction.

Wednesday morning’s starting match at the Apex Wisconsin Open was the equivalent of skipping the warm-up acts completely and heading straight into the hottest new bands, with former World 9-Ball champion Fedor Gorst facing reigning World 10-Ball champion Eklent Kaci in a first-round clash. The two opened play with a nip-and-tuck battle, with Gorst taking advantage of a crucial mistake by his opponent to come from behind and steal a straight-sets victory, 4-2, 4-3, at the Ho-Chunk Resort and Casino in the Wisconsin Dells.

After Kaci won the opening rack, Gorst snagged the next two games after his opponent failed to pocket a ball on the break in the second game but quickly relinquished the table when he didn’t land a ball on the opening shot in the fourth rack. The Albanian tied the score at two games each then opened play in the fifth game by playing a safety on the 1 ball when an open shot wasn’t available. Gorst promptly rattled the ball into the corner pocket with a jump shot and ran out to reclaim the lead. Kaci had another opportunity to tie the set when Gorst again failed to pocket a ball on the break but missed a combination shot on the 2 ball, which the Russian pocketed along with the remaining balls to secure the set, 4-2.

Kaci used a break-and-run in the second set to jump out to an early lead but broke dry in the next rack, allowing his opponent to clear the table and then weave around a clustered 4, 5 and 10 balls in the next game to climb ahead, 2-1. After Gorst failed to land a ball on the break, Kaci again tied the set then gained the lead when his opponent fouled in the fifth game. Standing at the table with a 3-2 lead and a chance to force a shootout, Kaci missed a makeable 6 ball which allowed Gorst to tie the match. After breaking in the set-deciding seventh rack, the Russian executed a sharp cut on the 1 ball, slid in a 5 ball that was closely guarded by the 8 ball and banked in the 9 ball into the side pocket to clear the table and escape with a 4-3 victory.

Watch the entire Gorst-Kaci match on our partner YouTube channel World Billiard TV

Hours later, Gorst would pitch a 4-0 shutout in the first round of his match against Dimitris Loukatos, but lost the second set 4-3 and lost in a shootout to the Greek, 4-3. The Russian moves to the one-loss side of the bracket where he will play Friday morning.

England’s Darren Appleton appears to close to regaining the stroke that landed the former U.S. Open 9-Ball champion in the Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame. Facing Mickey Krause of Denmark, Appleton played nearly flawless in a straight set second round victory.

After Krause used a break-and-run and a scratch on the break by his opponent to build an early 2-1 lead, Appleton took advantage of a foul by his opponent in the fourth rack to tie set then tacked on back-to-back breaks and runs to close out a 4-2 victory. The Brit, reached the second round with a straight sets victory over Poland’s Konrad Juszczyszyn, was equally crafty in the second set, using two victorious safety exchanges and a break-and-run to build a commanding 3-0 advantage. Krause had a chance to climb onto the scoreboard after his opponent scratched on the break in the fourth game but failed to secure position on the 6 ball and missed a bank shot. Appleton executed a sharp cut on the object ball then finished off the rack to pitch a 4-0 shutout and advance to the third round of the winner’s side of the bracket.
Appleton will face fellow Hall of Famer Mika Immonen in the third round Friday at 11 a.m. eastern time.

In other matches of the day, Roland Garcia took advantage of a handful of errors by three-time Mosconi Cup member Tyler Styer to earn a 4-0, 4-2 victory and Billiard Congress of America Hall of Famer Immonen needed an extra frame to survive a 7-6 shootout against Michael Schneider of Switzerland.

Competition resumes Thursday morning with notable matches including Denis Grabe of Estonia taking on Jasmin Ouschan at 11 a.m. eastern time, Garcia taking on Robbie Capito at 3 p.m. and Mieszko Fortunski of Poland meeting Hunter Lombardo on the one-loss side of the bracket at 6 p.m.

The Apex Wisconsin Open is the second event of the year for the Predator U.S. Pro Billiard Series and the first ever to be staged at Ho-Chunk Resort, a sprawling facility north of Madison which offers a 302-room hotel as well as spacious gaming and convention space.

Follow the Apex Wisconsin Open draw on the Predator US Pro Billiard Series FargoRate’s dedicated page
The Apex Wisconsin Open is streamed for free all week on Billiard TV and the World Billiard TV YouTube channel.
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Savannah Easton Goes Undefeated at Griff’s

With the Junior International Championship going into its second season, it is becoming more and more common for fans to see its top junior players branching out from their success in the junior ranks to succeed in open events. For eleven year old Savannah Easton from Las Vegas, she might be skipping the success amongst her peers and moving full speed into open event success.

Easton outdistanced a field of thirty three other players to win the Griff’s Ladies 640 & Under Fargo 9-Ball event over the weekend of January 29th – 30th. 

Easton says she has been “hitting balls” on a pool table since she was four and her first real interest in playing the game seriously came from playing her Dad Larry on the family pool table. It was also words of encouragement from her Dad that helped prepare her for playing the event at Griff’s. “My Dad told me that if I shoot with confidence, good things will happen” she said. “I also knew that even if I lost, it would be a huge learning experience for me.”

That confidence paid off on Saturday, as Easton (Fargo 447) had wins over Val Porter and Ces Ralston, both higher rated players and both opponents that Easton defeated without the handicap she was getting. 

Easton came back on Sunday in the final eight on the winner’s side and said that while she was warming up with her Dad she started thinking about possibly making it to the finals of the event. Easton’s first two Sunday matches were against Catherine Colosia and Amani Ali. Colosia looked to have things under control against Easton, leading 4-2 in a straight race to 5, but Easton took advantage of errors by Colosia to win three straight for the win. Ali would fall 5-3 in the next match.

The hot-seat match was against Yen Huynh, who had been mowing down opponents all weekend. Huynh had allowed one opponent to get to the hill against her so far in the event, and was just coming off of an 8-1 drubbing of Janna Nelson. Easton was getting three games in the 8-5 race, but again she didn’t need the handicap as she beat Huynh 5-3 to take the hot-seat.

Easton’s opponent in the finals would be her toughest challenge yet. California’s Gigi Callejas has been a successful player on the west coast for a couple of years and has top finishes in both regional and national tours. Callejas had dropped her second match of the event to Colosia on Saturday but then forged a seven match winning streak on the one loss side. The finals would be true double elimination, but Easton would only need one set to score a hill-hill victory and celebrate the undefeated tournament win. “When I sunk that last 9-ball for the win, I couldn’t believe I actually won the whole tournament undefeated” said Easton days after her victory. “It never really sunk in until the next day because I was so tired”.

Easton has hopes to build on this success and says she hopes to become like her idol Margaret Fefilova. She credits Fefilova with helping in her early success, as well as other champions like Tyler Styer, Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann and Hunter Lombardo who helped her with her technique at the table. More importantly, Easton credits the support that she gets from her Mom and Dad on her “journey to becoming the next World Champion”.

Easton is currently sponsored by Predator, Kamui, JamUp Apparel and Bangin Ballz Billiards. Next up for Easton is the Junior International Championship stop in Cape Coral Florida next week, where she hopes to continue her success. 

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International 9-Ball Open Second Stage Underway

Alex Pagulayan (Karl Kantrowitz)

The International 9-Ball Open is now into the single elimination second stage of the brackets. The top sixteen undefeated players will now face a random player drawn from the final sixteen players with one loss.

The first matches to take place are…

Jayson Shaw vs Naoyuki Oi
Earl Strickland vs Denis Grabe
Shane Wolford vs Fedor Gorst
Dennis Orcollo vs Alex Pagulayan
Omar Al Shaheen vs Hunter Lombardo

The remaining players will be drawn later in the day.

All players at this stage of the event are guaranteed prize money, with players losing in the round pocketing $1000.

Follow all of the action with Live Scoring and online brackets for the 9-Ball. AzBilliards is working along with digitalpool.com to help put those brackets online.

The International 9-Ball Open will continue play all of this week and can be watched as part of the online PPV for this event at https://www.onsitepool.com/accustats/. For the first time in the history of this event, fans can watch action on any table as part of the PPV coverage.