The 9-Ball Baby Show

(Shanghai, China)--Mika Immonen sure is getting a good workout here in Shanghai.

Immonen, who two years ago commenced what would become one of the greatest winning streaks in the annals of pool, has advanced out of his group and into the knockout stage of 32 at the China Open with two grueling 9-8 victories as day one of the $275,000 event came to close at the Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium  in suburban Shanghai.

In the morning session the Finn won a testy match against German Oliver Ortmann. Then Immonen came back later in the evening and slugged it out with recent Beijing Open champion Chang Jung Lin.  The match got so heated that after Immonen sank the final 9-ball, Chang refused to shake his hand. 

“He dogged that 9-ball in the previous rack, then he dogged the 5 in the last rack,” Immonen said of Chang. “I didn't do anything to him. It wasn't my fault. I guess he's just caught up in the heat.”

Joining Immonen in the final 32  will be Great Britain's Chris Melling. Melling, who made it to the quarter finals of the World 10-Ball championship in Manila in May, defeated Toh Lian Han of Singapore and John Salazar of the Philippines.  Also through to the final 32 is World 10-ball semi-finalist Yukio Akagariyama, who defeated Efren Reyes 9-4. Other players who won two and have qualified for the final 32 are Dennis Orcullo of the Philippines, Corey Duel of the USA, Fu Chei Wei of Chinese Tapei,  Ahmad Taufiq Bin Murni of Brunei, and Wang Ming of China.  

The men's field started with 64 players playing in 8 groups of 8 in a double elimination format, race to 9, alternate break.  The final 32 players will begin the play on Friday and will play race to 11, winners break.

The day's biggest surprise came from World 10-Ball champion Huidji See, who went two and out to quickly end his stay in Shanghai. See barely saw daylight as he lost to Vietnam's Vu Trong Khai, 9-5, then Great Britain's Scott Higgins, 9-6.

Easily the biggest profile match of the day was between Johnny Archer and Francisco Bustamante, both Hall of Famers.  Archer routed the Filipino great 9-2.

“We were both making balls on the break,” Archer said. “But he missed a few shots, and I was shooting good. I'm happy.” 

The women's division, which comprises 48 players, race to 7,  had a completely different feel than the men's event. That's because in China, the women pool players are light years more popular than the men players.  Clearly cuteness and charm sell in China which was evidenced by the fact that throughout the first day, every single television match featured the women. And  Asian women at that.

One of the more popular TV matches featured China's very own World 9-ball champion Fu Xiao Fang vs Singapore's Chai Zeet Huey.  Spurred on by over 100 school children in the audience, Fu performed perfectly and won going away, 7-0.  Korea's glamorous Ga Young Kim drew an adoring crowd on the 2nd feature table, and won easily over Chan Ya Ting of Chinese Taipei, 7-3.  Defending champion, and quickly rising Chinese superstar, 17 year old Chen Siming also won handily and will face Ireland's Karen Corr on Thursday.

In a match of high profile veterans, Chinese Taipei's storied veteran Liu Shin Mei took down Hall of Famer Allison Fisher, 7-3.

The day and evening sessions with 20 tables in action were sandwiched around a lavish opening ceremony with pomp and pageantry as one can only see in China. At one point several dozen tuxedo clad pool referees, along with each and every member of the China pool team, came on stage and sang a song extolling in heavily accented English the near God-like virtues of 9-ball pool, while a troupe of sexy young ladies, called “The 9-ball Baby Show” danced on the floor around the TV table.

“Oh My 9-ball… My Life… We love you all the time.   Oh My 9-ball…Highlight…For the Best We try.”

Day two of the China Open continues Thursday afternoon and after the second day's matches, the knockout field of 32 for the men and 16 for the women will be completed.  The China Open, now in it's third year, offers  one of pool's biggest prize funds; $162,800 for the men, and $112,800 for the women.  

The WPA will be offering live scoring from inside the Shanghai Pudong Yuanshen Stadium for Thursday's action. Group brackets can be viewed on the WPA website as well by clicking on the “Live Scoring/Results” link.