The Iceman Chills Alcano in Chesapeake

Mika Immonen (Photo courtesy of Diana Hoppe)

Mika Immonen got off to a hot and lucky start in the finals of the 33rd Annual US Open 9-Ball Championship. He won the first rack fair and square but then, after Alcano returned his push-out, fired a kick shot into the two ball that collided with the nine ball and sent it into the side pocket to give him a 2-0 lead in the final race to thirteen games. He misfired on the one ball in the next game but Alcano failed to capitalize on his trip to the table and left Mika a nifty little carom in the side pocket. From there the journey to the nine ball was an easy one and Mika converted this to a 3-0 lead.

Now Mika could relax on two fronts. He had an early lead and there would be no repeat of the whitewash he suffered in the finals pit here against Corey Deuel. Everything was going according to plan. He was putting away racks and he was keeping the red-hot arm of Alcano cool in the chair. Rack four continued the trend with a break and run. Rack five went the same way. Rack six brought Alcano to the table once to play a failed safety that only temporarily delayed Immonen's win. Finally, in rack seven, Immonen broke dry and left a shot on the one ball.

Alcano ran the rack to win his first bead. He also took the next rack but then Immonen grabbed the next two and stretched out to an 8-2 lead. The wheels were beginning to fall off for Alcano. His cue ball was no longer listening to him and the lack of shape forced him to kick and miss the three in the next rack. Mika attempted a tough cross-corner bank on the five, but left it in the jaws. Alcano could not convert the opportunity. He failed to get the cue ball out for the cut on the six and banked it back instead where it hung in the jaws. Mika was out for a 9-2 lead. Then 10-2.

Rack thirteen went to Alcano after Mika misjudged a safety and left an open shot. But Alcano knew he needed a miracle. The normally stoic Filipino great was shaking his head after many shots and had no life in his gait around the table. Still, it is not in his character to surrender and he continued the fight with all of the courage he could muster. He came out ahead in the next rack after a long exchange of safeties but still trailed widely 10-4.

In the next rack, momentum began to shift over to the other chair. Alcano got his game back as his arm had now had time to warm a bit. The stroke smoothed back out and the cue ball began to listen to him once again. He won this rack and the next one and the goal line was now once again within his field of view. Where he had once trailed by eight games the margin had now been cut in half to four. Alcano was energized again and it was the Iceman who was getting too much chair time. When Alcano won the next rack to bring it within three, Immonen noticeably squirmed in his seat.

Immonen struggled early in the next rack, making tough shots to get to the three ball that he used for a combo to pocket the nine. Now Immonen only needed to win two games before Alcano could capture six. He failed to pocket a ball on the next break but Alcano scratched on his very first shot to bring Mika back into play. Mika cruised through the remaining eight balls to stand alone on the hill, one step away from glory.

All Mika wanted was a single break and run. But he came up dry on the break. Alcano had no shot on the one ball and his kick attempt came out poorly. Mika could see the whole ball and the ball could see the pocket. He made the one and now only had to hold his nerves to claim the title. His are got a little clumsy on the four ball and delivered tough shape on the five. He made a tough, thin cut to pocket the five but had nothing for the six ball but a safety. It was a good one, leaving Alcano only a kick. Alcano made the hit and left Immonen a bank into the side or another safety if he wished.Immonen played a two-way shot that left him safe when the six ball failed to drop in the side. Alcano made the hit but left a Cosmo table that Mika easily cleared to take the game, the match, and his place in history.