The Asian Invasion is in Full Force

Xiao Ting Pan

Why don't we get some Domino's? Nah Pizza Hut is better. How about Subway or Starbucks? Let's just go to 7-11 and get some microwave spaghetti. Sound familiar? It should because these were all choices available to the world's best female pool players as they descended on the suburb of Taipei, Taiwan called Tao Yuan to compete in one of the world's largest shopping malls for the 2007 world championship title.

Called the 2007 Amway Women's World 9-Ball Championship, this contest featured women from around the world, including Venezuela and Turkey for the first time.

While there was some grumbling about the format and the conditions, specifically easy pockets and races to five in the round-robin stages, the fact is that the conditions were the same for all the participants. The most notable victim of the conditions was an out-of-form Allison Fisher who failed to advance into the quarter finals.

A very in-form Xiao-Ting Pan trounced a very nervous newcomer Rubilen Amit in the finals 11-5 to win the whole thing. Rublilen Amit deserved to be in the finals however with very strong and creative play which quite resembled her male stablemates from the Philippines.

Other highlights were Kim White's 5-8th place showing. The USA has been without a title here for a long time and Kim was in fine form all week having not lost a match. Japanese player Hamanishi proved to be Kim's bane however and slipped by relegating her to a spectator.

Going back to the conditions this tournament was definitely a tester for the nerves and concentration. Distraction was everywhere from the cameramen and media photographers covering each match to shoppers going up the escalators, to things dropping from the upper levels, to rollerblading children crashing into the barriers. It was a mighty feat to relax and prepare for a match because private and quiet space was hard to come by. On top of that the matches were constantly started early to keep action going for the live broadcast.

A good example of how absurd this was is showcased in the match between Gerda Hofstaetter and Xiao Ting Pan in the round robin stage. The match was scheduled for 6pm. Gerda came to the arena at 5:30pm and settled in to watch some pool before she played. The match previous to hers finished at around 5:40 and Gerda noticed the staff frantically looking around the arena. Surmising that they were looking for her she went down and was asked to start her match early. So at 5:45pm, 15 minutes early, she started the match. Gerda didn't miss or make one ball in that match a Pan rolled to a 5:0 victory and the match was over before it was scheduled to begin.

It was explained by the promoter that Taiwanese viewers preferred to watch a match from beginning to end rather than have the action cut in on matches that were in progress. They also had a call-in promotion going where viewers could call a pay-per-call number and pick the winner of an upcoming match and be eligible to win prizes. So it was important that they keep action going on the main TV table to keep the calls coming in. It was reported that in previous years the call-in promotion had received around 500,000 calls at NT$10 per call. That's about .30cts U.S. per call.

VideoLand is a Taiwanese network that runs about four channels on cable. They broadcast the tournament live. Every ball in every feature match was shown without interruption. The miles of cables they used was amazing. As well they did interviews with the players which they used as filler for slow moments. Often they would play them during the player's matches so the fans and players were treated to the surreal experience of hearing the player's words booming from the arena speakers. Sometimes this brought a wry smile from the player and a laugh from the crowd and other times it was a clear disturbance for the player.

All in all though it was a fantastic tournament. The players with the best performances advanced as they should. There were upsets and blowouts and resolves to train harder and get ready for next year.

Amway and VideoLand went all out to provide the best tournament they could. Robert Huang and his mostly volunteer staff of 25 kept things running smoothly.

Robert promises a bigger and better event next year and extends a heartfelt invitation to all players and fans. He will even spring for some Starbucks as he did for the reporters.