Zeng goes undefeated to win MVP Raxx 9-Ball Classic (650 Under)

Erwin Jao, Max Watanabe, Mhet Vergara, Holden Chin, Elvis Rodriguez and Sean Zeng

As we noted in a Joss Northeast 9-Ball Tour report last July (2021), Sean Zeng had made something of a habit of cashing in at least one stop on that tour per year. In fact, since 2018, he’d cashed in exactly one event per year (that we know about), commencing with his 7th place finish on the Joss NE tour that year and three years later, a tour win on the weekend of June 26-27, 2021. The single cash finish/win made 2021 his best earnings year to date. The cash he brought home after going undefeated this past weekend (Aug. 20-21) to win the Mhet Vergara ProAm (MVP) Tour’s Raxx 9-Ball Classic (for FargoRates of 650 and under) turned this year into his best earnings year. The $1,500-added event drew 63 entrants to Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY.

Runner-up Max Watanabe was looking to make the MVP Tour stop his first and only 2022 cash finish, as well. Though a veteran of both the former Tri-State Tour, the current Predator Tri-State Tour and the former Predator ProAm Tour, at which he has claimed numerous event titles over the years, dating back to 2015, and recording his best earnings year in 2019, he had yet to cash in 2022.

Zeng and Watanabe almost met in the hot seat of this MVP Tour stop. Zeng had gotten by Adrian Daniel, Aman Khan, Ricardo Mejia and Roberto Mendoza, to draw Luis Genao in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Watanabe, in the meantime, had sent Mike Callaghan, Glenn Ramsey and Shawn Sookhai to the loss side, before running into Horelbin Ramos, who put up a double hill fight against him. That double hill struggle may have taken all the ‘starch’ out of Watanabe’s game as he entered the other winners’ side semifinal against Erwin Jao.

Zeng got into the hot seat match with an 8-6 win over Genao. Watanabe fell to Jao 8-5, sending Jao up against Zeng. Zeng and Jao locked up in a double hill fight, as well, with Zeng eventually claiming the hot seat and packing Jao off to the semifinals against Watanabe.

On the loss side, Watanabe opened up against Raymond Paragas, who’d lost a second-round battle against Elvis Rodriguez and then embarked on a six-match, loss-side winning streak that had recently eliminated Sylvester Palacios 7-3 and Pat Fleming 7-5. Genao drew Elvis Rodriguez, who, right after sending Paragas over, lost a third-round match to Roberto Mendoza and went on a five-match, loss-side streak that had just sent John Francisco and Starling Duverge home (7-4, 7-3).

Rodriguez did what he could to secure his place in a rematch quarterfinal against Paragas with a 7-3 win over Genao. Watanabe spoiled the table reunion with a 7-3 win over Paragas. Watanabe stopped Rodriguez’ loss-side run at five, with a 7-3 win in the quarterfinals.

Watanabe then spoiled Erwin Jao’s hopes for a second shot at Zeng, waiting in the hot seat, with a 7-4 semifinal win. In the only set that proved to be necessary, Zeng defeated Watanabe 8-2 to claim the event title.

Tour director Mhet Vergara thanked Holden Chin and his Raxx Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Peri Cues, OB Cues, Queens Bodega and Inthbx apparel. The next stop on the MVP Tour was underway as this report was being filed, the $5k-added, MVP Tour New York State Championships, hosted by Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.

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