Pinoys gunning for glory in World 9 Ball Championship

13 make it to last 64

The World 9 Ball Championship may have a different promoter, a different venue, and lesser prize money than before, but one thing never changes. The Philippines will always come out strong.

This event used to be promoted by English outfit Matchroom Sport who aired the event live to dozens of countries.  But they dropped it after 2006 to concentrate on the World Cup of Pool and the Mosconi Cup, which supposedly drew in more ratings in Europe than the World 9 Ball ever did.

After a two year hiatus, Qatari interests revived the event in 2010, holding it in Doha. Francisco Bustamante won it that year, defeating Kuo Po Chen in the final. Last year another Pinoy, Ronnie Alcano, reached the final but was upset by Japan's Yukio Akagariyama.

This year we are back in Doha, following the same format, with 128 hopefuls starting out in a double-elimination group stage composed of 16 groups of 8.  Four make the cut from each group.  The event is now down to the single-elimination round of  64. There will be races-to-11 until the final, which will be race-to-13.  Thankfully the entire event will be alternate-break, which I prefer. 

Thirteen Pinoys have barged into the last 64, more than any other country. The ageless Efren Reyes is very much in the hunt. He faces Singapore's Toh Lian Han and will be massively favored. Bata is in the same quarter of the bracket as Django Bustamante, who has a tricky assignment against Chinese Taipei's legendary “Cold Faced Killer,” Chao Fong Pang. If Django and Bata each win two knockout matches they will meet in the round of 16.

Dennis Orcullo must be eager to play Hong Kong's Andrew Kong. Kong stunned the 2011 World 8 Ball champ in the group stage. Lee Van Corteza has a very winnable match against Belgium's Serge Das. Belgium is known for its Aramith Pool Balls and Simonis cloth, but producing great players is another matter altogether. If the Davaoeno hurdles Das he faces either Tony Drago or Mika Immonen in the next round. 

Antonio Gabica is another top Pinoy searching for a first World title. He squares off against a talented young Austrian, Mario He.

Carlo Biado is another Filipino on the rise. Last March he won the Green Garden tournament in Bali, topping Roberto Gomez 11-5 in the final. Naoyuki Oi of Japan is his round-of-64 foe. The winner plays either Joven Alba, who has represented the Philippines in Snooker, or Chinese Taipei's Chang Jung Lin, the current 8 Ball World Champ.

Zamboanga's Gomez will not have an easy time with China's Liu Haitao, while fans of Alcano will hope the two-time former world champ can stop 2011 Guinness World Series of Pool titlist Jundel Mazon, also of the Philippines.

Other Pinoys in the mix are Israel Rota, Marlon Caneda, and Elvis Calasang.

Sadly there is no TV coverage for this event. But a whole nation hopes that come the final on June 29th, another Filipino is there to lift the trophy and bank the US40,000 first prize.

For the latest news, you can follow noted pool analyst Ted Lerner on Twitter @poolwpa. 

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